From highway to waterway: Cargo Ferry moves transport from road to sea

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The M/S Kvitbjørn is fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and can carry as much cargo as 200 trucks.
The M/S Kvitbjørn is fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and can carry as much cargo as 200 trucks.
The M/S Kvitbjørn is fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and can carry as much cargo as 200 trucks.

A new competitive and eco-friendly maritime transport concept, the Cargo Ferry project, was presented in Oslo yesterday (Monday). The result of more than two years of work, the concept has been developed as an alternative transport solution for containers that are carried for more than 200km on land. The project was presented on board Nor Line’s brand-new LNG fuelled ship, the M/S Kvitbjørn.

The report presents a logistics solution, concept ship and market analysis, while also documenting the Cargo Ferry’s potential profitability. A group of 27 companies with interests and expertise in short sea shipping, led by DNV GL, Shortsea Services and Marintek, have cooperated to develop the report.

The main market for the Cargo Ferry concept is goods that are currently transported on trucks for long distances to and from coastal Norwegian towns. After conducting extensive customer analyses and interviews, the project has identified this market as covering some 17 to 20 million tonnes of goods each year.

“The analyses show there is a significant potential market for a maritime-based logistics solution,” said Remi Eriksen, DNV GL Group Executive Vice President and COO.

The Cargo Ferry concept offers transport to and from destinations that are linked together by efficient maritime transport on four main routes, including distribution to and from ports. The logistics solution covers the transport of goods from one goods terminal to another, or from one warehouse to another, but can also include transport from a sender to a recipient, or be limited to only port-to-port. The primary customers are those that, individually or collectively, fill up a container, either as a full container load or a large less-than-container load.

Cargo Ferry is built around a concept for a new “lift on/lift off” (LoLo) vessel. With its own cranes and cell guides the vessel can carry 110-140 40-foot/45-foot containers. The ship has a service speed of 12 to 15 knots, is LNG-fuelled, has a battery for hybrid operation and can use shore power. As a result the vessel has an extremely low emission profile. It also operates without assistance from shore through the use of an automated mooring system.

A fully developed solution with the capacity to deal with the cargo volume identified in the report will require 14 ships transporting the equivalent of 220,000-270,000 45-foot containers annually. However, the overall transport price will be 20-30% lower than if trucks are used and the concept is flexible, punctual, eco-friendly and has daily departures.

“It will be possible to transfer five million tonnes of cargo from roads to the sea, at a minimal cost to the authorities. This represents an annual benefit to society of some 1.3 billion NOK. On top of that, the reduction in road traffic means fewer accidents on the roads, less road maintenance and a dramatic drop in CO² emissions as well as emissions of SOx and NOx, which gives a positive health outcome,” said Mr Eriksen.

Incorporating many innovative features, the Kvitbjørn is fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and can carry as much cargo as 200 trucks. Using LNG as fuel virtually eliminates sulphur and particulate emissions, as well as significantly reducing the vessel’s NOx and CO2 emissions.

The DNV GL-classed ship will sail on a fixed route between northern Europe along the coast of Norway to the north of the country and back. Developed in close cooperation with Rolls Royce the vessel has an innovative hull design, propulsion system and power generation system onboard.