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Maersk’s Battery-Powered Cargo Container Ship Sets Sail for Sustainability

Maersk, the world’s largest container ship carrier, is pilot testing a battery system to improve power production and raise the sustainability bar.

A containerized 600 kilowatt marine battery system will be installed in a trial on board the Maersk Cape Town in December to improve vessel performance and reliability, while reducing CO2 emissions.

Maersk said the pilot will provide a greater understanding of energy storage that will support the company in moving toward further electrification of its fleet and port terminals. Maersk will continue to facilitate, test and develop low-carbon solutions on its path to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Propelling marine vessels with battery power alone is still years away from being a technically and economically viable option, the company noted. However, marine battery systems can be used to improve the efficiency of a vessel’s onboard electrical systems, such as the Maersk Cape Town’s generators.

By maintaining the vessel’s auxiliary generators at a more optimal load and avoiding running generators when not needed, overall fuel consumption can be reduced. The battery system is also capable of providing redundant power, which can improve reliability at sea by ensuring continuous power supply.

The Maersk Cape Town includes a waste heat recovery system, a special feature of many Maersk container vessels. This system increases overall efficiency, as it allows the batteries to charge by capturing electrical energy from heat that would otherwise be lost out of the exhaust gas system for the main propulsion.

“This exciting pilot–the first of its kind in the industry–will show the potential of battery technologies to keep improving the performance of our vessels, while also reducing fuel consumption in our non-propulsion electrical systems,” Ole Graa, Maersk head of fleet technology, said.

The containerized battery energy storage system was manufactured in Odense, Denmark, by the system integrator and turnkey supplier Trident Maritime Systems. The Maersk Cape Town is a Singapore-flagged 249-meter long container ship built in 2011 that sails between West Africa and East Asia. The first full voyage with the new system in place will take place next year and will be closely monitored to evaluate the performance of the system against the trial’s ambitions.

Battery modules will be operating within the container in conjunction with other electrical and control components. Maersk has also worked in close collaboration with the American Bureau of Shipping, the vessel’s classification society, to ensure safety and compliance.