Battery power is an increasingly popular option for the transportation sector, with electric cars already commonly seen on the roads. The marine industry has also begun incorporating batteries onboard ships in a bid to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and advance the energy transition. What is more, this is a convenient way to store energy and have back up arrangements ready in case of power failure.
Over 150 ships are already operating with batteries onboard with another 100 battery-equipped vessels under construction. The number is expected to increase up to 2026, according to DNV. Batteries most frequently serve as backup power onboard ships, supporting a vessel’s operating profile and maintaining vital systems. Batteries can also be used as part of main propulsion system on electrical powered ships, a technology that aims to minimize the emissions sourced from shipping industry.
Types of batteries
There are different types of batteries used on board. Lead batteries are the traditional batteries used to provide back-up power to ships. Vented Lead Acid Batteries and Valve Regulated Lead Acid Batteries are types of lead batteries that can be installed onboard. They are reliable and recyclable, and can be installed onboard all types of vessels.
The latest battery product that is used on board are Lithium-ion batteries with several number of battery types, including lithium iron phosphate, lithium titanium oxide, and lithium manganese oxide. While lithium-ion batteries vary in terms of power density, energy density and lifecycle, they can perform multiple functions onboard.
For non electrical power ship, batteries serve the purpose of emergency supply of systems connecting to Emergency Switchboard. There are also GMDSS batteries to supply communication GMDSS systems with power for a short period of time (1 hour if connected to emergency power supply or 6 hours in case of total power failure). The requirement of GMDSS batteries is governed by Regulation 13, Chapter 4 of SOLAS.
Batteries also may be used on board in the following installations:
1. One of the two ways of starting emergency generator
2. Starting way of Boat’s engine
3. Many portable communication means (UHF,VHF etc) for internal or external communications
4. Main UPS system for computer based installations and servers
5. Crew personal devises
Overall, batteries on board non electrical ships play a vital role to almost all aspects of operations. If we add the electrical powered ships, then batteries are one of the most important systems on board. Batteries present a unique raft of opportunities for marine stakeholders.
This fast-evolving market can give ship owners a competitive edge, enable shipyards to gain expertise, and open new markets for equipment manufacturers. However, challenges do exist. Key concerns regarding safety, cost, installation and battery lifecycle must be addressed before batteries can be regularly integrated onboard ships. In that regard, operators should provide adequate procedures to crew in order to be trained to support, maintain and test all the battery related systems and understand the risks that may arise from inadequate battery systems’ performance on board.
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