Tokyo Bay will serve as a testbed for a new breed of all-electric tanker, developed to slash NOX, SOX, CO2 and PM emissions to zero. The forthcoming debut vessel is being developed as part of the ‘e5’ project, which has been established to promote 100% battery-powered vessels. The scheme will initially focus on the bunker supply vessels operating in Tokyo Bay’s waters, but could potentially come to address Japan’s combined tally of domestic vessels – some 7,000 in total – and, if the technology proves its worth, replace the majority of these within the next 30 years. If that all goes to plan, the next step would be to take the concept to the world stage.
The project is being overseen by the recently formed e5 Lab, whose stakeholders include Asahi Tanker, Exeno Yamamizu, Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL). All four corporations will pour their combined resources and technological know-how into the e5 Lab, to devise ways of eliminating harmful emissions from modern shipping. As a side project, the e5 Lab will also analyse the possibility of “leveraging autonomous sailing technologies and big data to provide onshore support for crews and contribute to safe, reliable and efficient ship operations”, MOL says.
The e5 project is so named in recognition of the five ‘e’s that its partners want to address. These include: electrification for vessels, chiefly via lithium-ion battery packs; the environmental benefits associated with eliminating emissions and minimising noise; economically sound solutions, backed by IoT-supported, remote diagnostics; efficiency, to reduce overall crew workloads; and evolution, making use of digitalisation and rapidly developing technologies to produce the most advanced vessels possible. The venture has also received technical input from Japanese classification society ClassNK, which is advising on the overall design and electric propulsion for the forthcoming first-in-class vessel.
The first e5 vessel will comprise a 60m x 10.3m, 499gt coastal tanker, scheduled for completion by mid-2021. The tanker’s concept design was handled by Groot Ship Design of the Netherlands, and incorporates approximately 1,300m3 of cargo tank capacity. At time of going to press, technical particulars remained largely under wraps, but it is believed that the e5 tanker’s propulsive arrangement will include a pair of 360°-revolving azimuth propellers at the stern, plus a thruster at the bow to enhance manoeuvrability. The vessel will be equipped with an automatic mooring system and will utilise 5G and satellite networks to ensure real-time connectivity between ship and shore.