A team of UK maritime researchers have set out their vision for a fleet of zero carbon coastal ships to transport goods around the UK via its ports by 2030. The Zero-carbon Coastal Highway concept was developed by a core team of the Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK) including experts from the University of Southampton, Shell Shipping & Maritime and the BMT Group.

In detailing their concept, the organizations noted that moving goods by water is well established as the most energy efficient approach. They said the proposal would shift transport from the UK’s already congested road and rail networks onto the water. The organizations estimate that the transition would add more than $2.3 billion in additional revenue to the UK, create 39,000 extra jobs, and reduce land-based CO2 emissions by between 30 and 40 percent.

Professor Stephen Turnock, Head of Civil, Maritime and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southampton, says: “Examining the transport logistics system as a whole will allow many of our smaller ports to be transformed, sustaining their localities and reducing the growing pressures on our road and rail bottlenecks. It will revolutionize the approach to vessel traffic management and greatly ease the development of maritime autonomous systems development.”

A key element of the plan focuses on using this costal highway as a means to decarbonize by employing a fleet of zero carbon ships. They noted that this would require new styles of vessels and coastal gateways designed and developed to support the network. Also, new regulations will be needed to ensure safety.

“Moving the distribution of goods from congested road and rail to coastal shipping in an efficient and clean manner provides a number of exiting research challenges, from the increased use on new power systems, likely involving hydrogen, together with increased electrification, 5G communications, robotics and high levels of autonomy of both ships and the port-side infrastructure,” said Professor Damon Teagle, Director of the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute.

MarRI-UK has submitted a Comprehensive Spending Review bid seeking $680 million of Government co-investment for the program. They believe the project could enable the UK to become a leading innovator in the global clean maritime sector.

Source: Maritime Executive