Shipping still plays an important role when it comes to transporting passengers and goods. Unfortunately, many fossil fuels are still being emitted this way to this day. Shipyard Next Generation Shipyards is the proud winner of the recently awarded Groninger Entrepreneur Award and is building the ships of the future, powered by hydrogen and designed to be energy efficient. Director Albert Keizer answered five questions about how the company is progressing.
Congratulations on your triumph. How does it feel to win the Entrepreneur Award?
“I am extremely happy about it. It’s a huge acknowledgement of the work that we have done in recent years: A confirmation that we are on the right track.”
What is Next Generation up to?
“We are working on the construction of several ships, including the new research ship of the NIOZ, The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, which is going to conduct research on the Wadden Sea. We are using aluminum for this, a light material. People used to think that mistakes in a ship’s design could be compensated with more engine power, but that is not sustainable. With the right design and lightweight materials, you can save a lot of fuel. Aluminum is therefore a sustainable solution. The demand for fast-moving ships is increasing, and especially with these types of ships, lightweight – and therefore aluminum – is extremely important.”
“We are also doing a lot of research into fossil-free sailing so that we can make the ships here in Lauwersoog -mainly small fishing trawlers – more sustainable. We have already shown that this is possible in a pilot The Ecolution, originally built by astronaut Wubbo Ockels, is one of the boats in the port of Lauwersoog that we have converted and which is now sailing on hydrogen. Ultimately, we want to use hydrogen on a large scale. But we still have to find a way to make it economically viable. Once we have converted around five fishing trawlers, it will be financially attractive to build a hydrogen station, but who is going to help us with the first five boats? We haven’t made up our minds about that yet.”
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What will be the company’s focus in the coming years?
“We’re going to focus even more intensely on making ships that sail through wind farms more energy efficient. There are advanced plans for ships with a dual, or ‘hybrid’, drive, as in, both fossil and hydrogen. The ships in the wind farms occasionally sail at high speed when they have to make a transit. At high speeds, the power outputs are considerable and hydrogen is not a suitable propulsion system for that purpose. However, 80% of the time these ships sail at slow speeds. It is possible to use an electric motor powered by hydrogen to do this. In about two years, I expect that we will be able to start delivering this hybrid solution.”
And will this hydrogen be generated sustainably in the future?
“We are going to build an ecological solar park here in Lauwersoog. The plans are almost complete, apart from a few subsidy applications. Once we have completed the park, we should be able to generate hydrogen using sustainable energy within a year. We are building a hydrogen refueling station here at the port. If we are going to make frequent use of hydrogen, we obviously also have to make sure that we generate it in a responsible way. The solar park completes the whole chain. Ultimately, we also want to offer hydrogen to road transportation and other ships here in the port.”
Do you think the maritime world is ready for hydrogen-powered transport?
The maritime world is ambitious, but there are certainly gains to be made here and there. Especially with the parties that make use of these ships. If a client commissions the construction of a wind park, they should not only look for the cheapest ship, but also choose the most sustainable alternative. Many companies proclaim that they want to be fossil-free within 30 years, but if you declare something, you also have to deliver on it. One of our main goals is to show society that sustainable shipping is really possible. We did that by building the Ecolution. Lately, I’ve been giving more and more lectures and presentations to shipbuilding engineers and the general public. I see that there is a growing awareness of sustainable shipping. Over the next few years, we will see more and more hydrogen-powered ships making their appearance in the Netherlands.”
You can also read the other stories about Groningen via this link.