Singapore is a small island nation with a big appetite for energy. As one of the world's leading trade and financial hubs, it consumes more than 50 million tonnes of oil equivalent per year, making it one of the top energy consumers per capita in the world. But it is also a country keenly aware of the environmental and economic costs of its energy dependence, especially in the maritime sector, which accounts for about 7% of its total greenhouse gas emissions.
That's why Singapore has been taking bold steps to transform its maritime industry into a greener and more sustainable one. In 2018, it launched the Maritime Singapore Green Initiative, a comprehensive plan to reduce the carbon footprint of its port and shipping activities by promoting cleaner fuels, energy efficiency and innovation. As part of this initiative, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has announced that all new harbourcraft operating in its waters will have to be electric or run on biofuels or net-zero fuels from 2030 onwards.
This ambitious goal has attracted the attention and support of Shell, one of the world's largest energy companies and a major player in Singapore's oil and gas sector. Shell has recently announced that it will launch a fully electric ferry service in Singapore during the first half of 2023, a move that marks a first for both Shell and Singapore. Shell says it has awarded a contract to Singapore's Penguin International Limited, a leading designer and builder of aluminum high-speed craft, to design, build and operate at least three fully-electric ferries.
The new 200-seater single-deck ferries will be used to transport passengers between mainland Singapore and Shell's Energy and Chemicals Park on the island of Bukom, replacing the conventional diesel-powered ferries currently in use. The approximately 5.5-kilometer-long ferry route off the Straits of Singapore is a busy connection that transports around 3,000 passengers a day or an estimated 1.8 million passenger trips annually.
The fully-electric ferries are powered by a lithium-ion battery system with a capacity of 1.2 MWh and run at speeds of over 20 knots with zero emissions and noise. When berthed at Shell Bukom, the ferries will be charged via a combination of fast charging during peak hours, and slow charging during off-peak hours and overnight.
By switching to zero-emission, fully-electric ferries, Shell is not only reducing its own carbon footprint, but also setting an example for other maritime operators in Singapore and beyond. According to Shell, electrification is a solution to decarbonise short voyages, including port operations, which account for about half of the global shipping emissions. Shell estimates that its electric ferry service will save about 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, equivalent to taking about 650 cars off the road.
But Shell is not stopping there. The company also plans to run a hydrogen fuel cell trial on a Shell-chartered vessel later this year as part of its collaboration with the MPA on a feasibility study to trial the use of hydrogen fuel cells for ships, the first of its kind for Shell and in Singapore. Hydrogen fuel cells are another promising technology that can enable zero-emission maritime transport for longer distances and larger vessels.
Shell's electric ferry service is an example of how energy companies can play a role in advancing clean mobility solutions for the maritime sector. By embracing innovation and collaboration, Shell is showing that it is possible to balance economic growth with environmental sustainability in one of the world's most dynamic regions.
But Shell is not alone in this effort. It is joined by Penguin International Limited, which has been developing its own electric ferry project called Electric Dream since 2019, with the aim of creating a commercially viable zero-emission vessel for Singapore's waters. Penguin has partnered with Incat Crowther UK, a naval architecture firm specializing in high-speed craft design, and Razor Blunt Labs, a local technology start-up focusing on marine electrification solutions.
"Our privately funded Electric Dream project is much more than just electric ferries and shore chargers," said James Tham, Managing Director of Penguin International Limited. "It is Singapore's first real-world commercial application of marine electrification. Penguin and our project partners Incat Crowther and Razor Blunt Labs have designed a safe and reliable end-to-end solution that meets Shell's standards."
Shell's electric ferry service is also welcomed by the MPA, which has been leading the efforts to lower the carbon footprint of its local harbourcraft and port operations. The MPA has been providing incentives and funding for maritime companies to adopt cleaner fuels and technologies and supporting research and development projects on low and zero-carbon solutions.
"The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is committed to lower the carbon footprint of our local harbourcraft and our port operations. Shell's bold move to commission new fully-electric ferries will take us a step closer to making a low-carbon future a reality for our maritime sector," said Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive, MPA.
Shell's electric ferry service is a milestone for Singapore's maritime industry, as it demonstrates the feasibility and benefits of electrification for short-distance transport. It is also a testament to the vision and collaboration of Shell, Penguin, Incat Crowther, Razor Blunt Labs and the MPA, who have joined forces to make this project successful.
But more importantly, Shell's electric ferry service is a sign of hope for the future of maritime transport in Singapore and beyond. It shows that it is possible to achieve net-zero emissions in the shipping sector by 2050, as the International Maritime Organization envisioned. It shows that creating a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable maritime ecosystem for generations to come is possible. @via channelnewsasia.