Maersk sails towards charging buoys to reduce emissions

The world’s second-largest shipping container line and cargo boat operator wants idle vessels to rely on clean electricity, not fossil fuels. 

A simple idea in theory, Maersk’s plan focuses on installing hundreds of offshore charging stations within buoys, which container ships can ‘plug into’ to source the power they need to function while waiting outside ports. 

The company believes its fleet can significantly reduce carbon emissions and other air pollutants by switching from fuel oil when stationary. Sillstrom, a new company owned by Maersk’s offshore marine division, has devised the technology required for the transformation, with floating structures connected to mains power via transmission lines. 

cargo ship on body of water during daytime

During the pandemic, bottlenecks and congestion plagued many of the busiest ports, including Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Rotterdam. Caused by a shortage of labour and rise in import demand, the result was a significant increase in harmful exhaust fumes as ships sat waiting in harbours while using power. Currently, coaster vessels use between three and five tonnes of shipping fuel each day, while large commercial vessels can consume as much as 10 tonnes in a 24-hour period. 

By 2028, it is hoped that 100 worldwide ports will have between three and 10 of the new buoys installed. The system could lead to a reduction in carbon emissions of 5million tonnes each year once fully operational. An offshore windfarm operated by Orsted will be the location of the first buoy, which may ready to use as early as July 2022. Following this trial, the full project will be rolled out. 

In 2018, UK Major Ports Group, which represents the country’s nine major port operators, launched an engagement drive around air quality at its member facilities. 


Image credit: Galen Crout


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