MOL continues to work toward fulfillment of International Maritime Organization (IMO) strategies and our Environment Vision 2030, and is proceeding with the development of promising technologies.
Among them is the Wind Challenger Project, which makes use of wind energy to assist with vessel propulsion. This ambitious project relies on the resurgence of sails-which disappeared with the introduction of fossil fuels for cargo ships-on the merchant ships of the future, enhanced by cutting-edge technologies and materials.
We cannot achieve the high reduction target set out in our environmental vision by adopting only one currently applicable technology to reduce our environmental impact. The Wind Challenger, a propulsion-assisting device that relies on wind power, has the benefit of adding a new layer of energy-saving technology, without interfering with fuel conversion technology(*1) or subsurface energy-saving systems(*2).
The sail area can be adjusted according to wind speed by using automatic, telescopic sails. The height of the reefed-sails is the same as that of an ordinary vessel, so bridges and so on would not restrict navigation routes. In addition, the use of composite materials for sails reduces weight and minimizes the load impact generated by the motion of the ship.
MOL started examining the basic technologies in a joint industry-academia research project led by Tokyo University in 2009, and is now in the implementation phase, in cooperation with Oshima Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. In this phase, we planned to develop a detailed design and install one sail on a 100,000 DWT bulk carrier, and in October 2019, obtained Approval In Principle (AIP) from Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK) for the design of a hard sail system. We will continue to move toward a detailed design, aiming to launch a newbuilding vessel equipped with a hard sail in 2022. The sail would reduce the vessel's GHG emissions by about 5% on a Japan-Australia voyage, and about 8% on a Japan-North America West Coast voyage. The long-term goal is to develop a widely accepted solution to achieve the IMO target in combination with other measures to reduce GHGs by equipping vessels with multiple sails.
In addition, MOL Group MOL Marine Co., Ltd. introduced a Wind Challenger simulator to provide numerical simulation and visual simulation of port arrival and departure, and is moving ahead to explain the Wind Challenger Project to related organizations such as coast guards and pilots' associations.
(*1) LNG fuel and methanol fuel
(*2) Improvements in ship type, PBCF, etc.
(*3) Companies/organizations participating in the application and commercialization phase: Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd., Oshima Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., IKNOW Machinery Co., Ltd., Kanazawa Institute of Technology, University of Tokyo, Kansai Design Company, Ltd., Tokyo Keiki, GH Craft Ltd., MOL Techno Trade Co., Ltd., Ouchi Ocean Consultant, Inc.
MOL has teamed up with Asahi Tanker Co., Ltd., Exeno Yamamizu Corporation, and Mitsubishi Corporation on a strategic partnership to provide new infrastructure services in the marine shipping industry, with a focus on developing and promoting electrically powered vessels, through a newly established company called e5 Lab. Inc. (e5 Lab).
As stricter standards on exhaust emissions from merchant vessels take effect around the world, we expect to see wider use of LNG as a vessel fuel, because it can significantly reduce not only sulfur oxides (SOx) but also carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a cause of global warming, and nitrogen oxide (NOx), which is a cause of acid rain and so on.
[ LNG-fueled Tugboat ]
In February 2019, the LNG-fueled tugboat Ishin, built for MOL by Kanagawa Dockyard Co., Ltd, became the first LNG-fueled tug to serve Osaka Bay. LNG fuel is provided by Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. (using a truck-to-ship bunkering procedure to supply fuel from a shore-side LNG truck to the vessel), and the Ishin is operated by MOL Group company Nihon Tug-Boat Co., Ltd.
Currently, the majority of vessels are equipped with diesel engines, which run on heavy oil, but the Ishin's LNG as fuel reduces exhaust emissions of CO2, NOx, and SOx, decreasing the vessel's environmental impact. The Ishin's excellent environmental performance-including an estimated 25% reduction in CO2 emissions in comparison to tugs that run on A fuel oil - has the top rating of five stars in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's energy-saving rating program for Japan's coastal ships.
The Ishin is powered by two of Yanmar's latest 6EY26DF dual-fuel commercial marine engines, which can use both A fuel oil and LNG. It is the first LNG-fueled tugboat built in Japan conforming to the IGF Code(*), established to ensure the safety of LNG-fueled vessels. It is also Japan's first LNG-fueled tugboat to feature a removable LNG fuel tank mounted on the exposed deck at the stern of the ship. This enhances convenience in bunkering, maintenance, and inspection.
(*) IGF Code: Stands for International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels. The code regulates safety requirements for vessels that run on gas and low-flashpoint fuels, and took effect on January 1, 2017
The project is intended to enhance vessel safety and realize energy-saving by developing a steering gear with sensing capabilities and incorporating big data analysis.
Until now, control data of the steering gear did not get much attention, even though this is one of the most critical elements in handling a ship. So MOL focused on control of the steering gear and moved ahead with R&D on the possibility of enhancing vessel safety and energy saving from this new viewpoint.
Using steering gear from Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. (KHI) on a KHI-built very large crude carrier (VLCC), we added sensors that monitor various values such as pressure, flow rate, temperature of hydraulic oil, and power consumption, and a high-speed data collection system that has a large storage capacity.
The equipment allows the collection of data from the steering gear, as well as other information such as the vessel speed, course, engine load, and rudder angle, during a voyage. Analysis of this data allows us to predict problems with the steering gear and reduce fuel consumption.
MOL views this project as an important step in developing the future "intelligence function equipped steering gear," which will help achieve new levels of vessel reliability, maneuverability, and energy efficiency.
More than 3,400 vessels around the world are saving fuel and reducing exhaust emissions thanks to MOL's innovative Propeller Boss Cap Fins (PBCF). We jointly developed an advanced version of the energy-saving PBCF with Akishima Laboratories (Mitsui Zosen) Inc., and MOL Techno-Trade, Ltd. The new design, featuring refinements in fin shape and height, enhances propeller thrust and reduces torque. Tests of the Advanced PBCF on vessels in service confirmed around 5% energy savings compared to sister vessels not equipped with PBCF. The Advanced PBCF design has already been patented around the world.
Also, the PBCF is now attracting public attention not only for energy savings, but also for its ecological benefits. Tests confirmed noise reductions of 3 to 6 decibels in a specific underwater frequency range, as the result of breaking up the hub vortex generated behind the rotating propeller and improving propeller efficiency. From the viewpoint of noise reductions, the PBCF was selected as a vessel quieting technology, which reduces the impact on the habitats of whales and other marine mammals, by the EcoAction Program implemented by Port of Vancouver, Canada.
Furthermore, MOL Techno-Trade participates in the "Green Award Program," run on a global scale by the nonprofit Green Award Foundation, which was established with the objectives of protecting the marine environment and enhancing the safety of vessel operation.
The MOL Group continues to work toward a sustainable future with this unique technology, which has a history of more than 30 years.