Offshore logistics hub

The maritime shipping industry currently transports 90% of the goods traded around the world.[1] The industry is responsible for nearly 3% of the world’s CO2 emissions, and this is forecasted to increase by as much as 250% by 2050.[1] The International Maritime Organization has the vision of reducing annual emissions by 50% by 2050, and coalitions of maritime stakeholders are working on zero emission vessels, striving to become carbon neutral by 2030.[2] A partial solution to decarbonizing container shipping is the creation of an offshore terminal powered by renewable energy.

An offshore terminal will provide another node in the network of ports, providing another hub for the rerouting of containers by smaller feeder vessels. Current practice sees large container ships stopping several times to discharge containers along a linear route. An offshore container terminal, powered by offshore wind, will reduce the distance to onshore terminals.[3] Excess wind power can be used to desalinate seawater for hydrogen production, that can provide a power buffer for the terminal. Furthermore, hydrogen can be stored in tanks that can be swapped onto fuel cell-powered feeder vessels.[4,5] This will make transport to and from the terminal emission free.[6] Additionally, the development of floating structures can help to increase the economic viability of offshore terminals.[7]

The challenge remains that hydrogen is still more expensive to produce, especially when taking into account the subsidies that fossil fuels receive. This, in turn, has limited the building of fuel-cell powered feeder vessels.[8]

When will an offshore container terminal, powered by renewable energy, be installed on the North Sea?

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[1] Selin, H. & R. Cowing, (2018), Cargo ships are emitting boatloads of carbon, and nobody wants to take the blame
[2] Adamopoulos, A., (2019), Shipping launches ‘moon-shot’ initiative to develop zero emission vessels by 2030
[3] S., Baldassarra, A., Bevivino, B. and Marinacci, C. (2016) Modeling an offshore container terminal: The Venice case study
[4] New Energy Update, (2019), Offshore wind hydrogen could be subsidy-free within 10 years
[5] DNV GL, (2015), A new era for hydrogen energy unveiled by summer students at DNV GL
[6] Hydroville, (2020), Hydrogen in Shipping
[7] Nederland Maritiem Land, (2017), Space@Sea to Introduce Floating Islands
[8] Meier, K. (2014), Hydrogen production with sea water electrolysis using Norwegian offshore wind energy potentials
More information:
Philibert, C. (2018), Offshore wind and hydrogen for industry in Europe
Thomas, D. (2019), Hydrogen production from offshore wind power
The Maritime Executive (2019), Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vessels Destined for France and Norway
International Maritime Organization (2018), Low carbon shipping and air pollution control
Mace, A. (2019), Here's Why Fuel Cells Will Power the World's Marine Vessels
Jadhav, A. (2020), Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Market Statistics - 2026
HYGRO (2020), Hydrogen from wind
Jepma, C. J. (2017), On the economics of offshore energy conversion: smart combinations
HYDROVILLE (2020), Hydrogen in shipping
Capuzzo, N. (2018), Vgate debuts offshore container terminal concept for Venice
MBA Skool (2020), Milk Run Definition, Importance, Example, Steps & Overview
Ricci, S. et al. (2016), Modeling an off shore container terminal: The Venice case study
European Commission (2020), Reducing emissions from the shipping sector
UN Climate Change News (2018), World Nations Agree to At Least Halve Shipping Emissions by 2050

By Matthew J. Spaniol