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Transformation of the existing fleet towards greener operations through retrofitting (ZEWT Partnership)


Progress towards climate neutrality of waterborne transport can be achieved more quickly by means of retrofit solutions that improve the performance of the existing fleet (sea-going and IWT) whilst solutions which are exclusive to new ships can only be implemented at the pace of the commercially driven fleet renewal.

In the trajectory towards the transition to new technologies that will make waterborne transport and operation greener and climate neutral picking the low hanging fruits is important. With the comparatively long life cycles of waterborne assets and their high initial capital costs addressing the existing fleet is paramount in order to achieve fast and tangible results. Therefore, interventions that are easily implemented by shipyards, ship owners and operators need to be developed in the shortest possible time to reduce emissions from vessels already in service, both seagoing and those operating in inland navigation. The latter are particularly relevant as they tend to be in use in excess of 30 years and are largely owned by SMEs with limited investment potential.

In this context the owner-operator dilemma poses additional problem in the waterborne sector: A large number of ships are bareboat chartered by an operator who does not take investment decisions although he could benefit from them through lower running costs. The owner who would have to make those investment decisions, however, does not gain financial advantages as charter rates are generally fixed and depend on ship size and speed only. A performance related charter rate system has often been discussed but rarely implemented. Easy and relatively cheap retrofitting solutions may help in overcoming this dilemma.

For inland navigation and/or maritime shipping projects are expected to address one or more of the following:

  • Retrofit solutions to significantly reduce air or water pollution without increasing fuel consumption and hence GHG emissions, for example main engine abatement systems or engine and propulsion system modifications.
  • Retrofit solutions which significant reduce GHG emissions through partial or full electrification, clearly progressing beyond the state of the art. Indicative examples are battery ICE hybridisation for the main propulsion system and auxiliary power, electric network reconfiguration, electrical power management.
  • Retrofit innovative hydrodynamic improvements (hull, hull management, appendages) to significantly improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions by reducing fuel consumption.

Projects will focus on the design for technically and economically efficient retrofitting of the ship along these main lines. Cost efficiency of the proposed solutions will come from standardised and modular solutions applicable to different ships or by significantly reducing operational costs over the expected remaining life time of the asset. This may require new business models and implementation strategies based on a catalogue of solutions including smart maintenance. Attention will be paid to solutions which are not causing secondary emissions to air or water and which will not significantly increase fuel consumption.

This topic implements the co-programmed European Partnership on ‘Zero Emission Waterborne Transport’ (ZEWT).