An ultra-modern Norwegian fishing ship, Cape Arkona will be a rare beast in Australian waters. But Australian she is despite her first rate Norwegian design and construction.
Built for one of Australia’s leading fishing companies, Fremantle-based Austral Fisheries, she will fish in the remote sub-Antarctic parts of the Southern Ocean.
A very large and powerful vessel by Australian – and indeed most – standards, she has been very carefully designed with considerable flair by Norway’s Skipskompetanse and built by compatriot Baatbygg. Both are globally renowned firms and the result of their collaboration is magnificent.
Cape Arkona is an innovative, versatile ship capable of trawling, potting, auto-lining and fully processing and refrigerating its multi-species catch on a single trip. All this in a comfortable, warm, safe, and economical diesel-electric hybrid powered ship.
“There is no doubt,” Baatbygg told Baird Maritime, “that the most unique feature about the vessel is the combination of catch methods and the possibility to carry all the different necessary fishing gear at the same time. The propulsion and power train are also unique for this type of fishing vessel and as far as we know, it is the first configuration of this specific type to also be tied in with a battery system to create a true hybrid.
“The vessel is a testament to Austral Fisheries’ unique ability to think outside the box and at the same time staying true to their commitment of being carbon neutral and leaving a low environmental footprint.”
Both Baatbygg and Skipskompetanse agree that the need to minimise vessels’ environmental impact has begun having a growing influence on the fishing vessel newbuilding industry.
“Optimisation of the design to minimise operational costs as well as the carbon footprint is essential,” remarked Skipskompetanse.
Baatbygg, meanwhile, has identified another factor that has been driving shipbuilding more than any other.
“For fishing vessel newbuilds in the North Sea,” commented Baatbygg, “it seems that uncertainties on quotas, especially with the current Brexit situation, is a limiting factor. Also, with IMO Tier III requirements being active from January 1 as well as new ballast water treatment, IHM certification requirements, etc. there is an added cost to the vessel owners.
“For vessels operating in Norwegian territorial waters the funding that can be obtained through the Nox-fond and Enova is helping to a certain extent by reducing some of the initial investment costs for SCR systems and battery systems amongst other things. The next hurdle seems to be how to reduce CO2 emissions.”
Although optimistic about future prospects, both companies admit that their operations in 2020 were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We started 2020 with a drop in activity,” Skipskompetanse told Baird Maritime. “Fortunately, activity has picked up and we are optimistic going forward. We expect to see more flexibility in design and combinations of different fishing methods in the future. Furthermore, boundaries will be pushed towards more environmentally friendly solutions.”
“We have been fortunate enough to maintain high activity despite the ongoing pandemic,” added Baatbygg, “but there is no question that it has impacted profitability and made all aspects of the operation more challenging and fragile. We do, however, think that we will come out of this pandemic stronger and more resilient. Concerning the future, we are confident that activity will remain good in the next few years, especially on repairs, retrofits and conversion.”
As it prepares to offer ideal solutions for markets in the future, Baatbygg is quick to recognise that certain technologies, no matter how innovative these may seem, still carry some limitations that also need to be addressed.
“Most fishing vessels have operational profiles where the duration of trips combined with high energy demand prevents them from looking at pure battery-electric options. The race is on to find alternative fuels and power configurations that can achieve the goal of zero emissions.”
Baatbygg shares the view that hydrogen and ammonia are ideal options but have their own share of drawbacks as well.
“Though the technology for utilisation is about ready, the drawback is the huge waste in energy, with 60 to 70 per cent loss in the entire energy process. Hydrogen or ammonia alternatives will therefore require a vast overproduction of green sustainable energy.
“The million-dollar question is where we get the excess energy from and at what cost. Blue hydrogen might help to bridge the gap in the short term, but we do not regard it as a sustainable alternative.”
When asked what trends and advances will become more important in the commercial marine industry over time, Baatbygg commented that alternative sustainable fuels will be at the centre of it all, though it will take time for full implementation to be a reality.
“When it comes to emissions and new regulations,” the company told Baird Maritime, “commercial marine is faced with the same challenges as the fishing vessels. We will also continue to see parts of the OSV fleet moving to the offshore wind market and other segments, hopefully creating a healthier market with more balance between supply and demand for the remaining fleet.”
Baatbygg concluded by saying the industry will still be relying on fossil fuels for years to come, thus stressing the importance of maintaining and further developing the technology from the offshore segment and to make sure the key players have the financial resources to transition into alternative sustainable segments when needed.
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