The Green Marine Revolution - Ecobarge.
So here I am, changing my life, and hopefully the lives of many more. I have spent 34 years at sea driving every type of boat you can imagine from a small seagull powered wooden dingy to 8000hp, DP2 class tow vessels. I have a comfortable life and a good salary in the marine sector of the oil industry in the North Sea. All good you would think but, unfortunately not!
I am cursed, or blessed, depending on your perspective, with a growing sense that time for our (human species), existence on this planet is growing short, through self-inflicted climate change, and other acts of madness. I have children, and some day hope to have grand children, so my thoughts are increasingly drawn what we leave them. I AM not alone in this and even before this weeks bombshell report from IPCC Described as a "Code Red for humanity" I had growing misgivings about the speed of climate change, mainly through the seeming differences in weather conditions that I personally have experienced in the North Sea over the last 33 years. All in all, it can't leave many in much further doubt we need to act decisively and quickly to prevent natural disasters like the ones being experienced so far this year, becoming permanent parts of out lives and that of future generations.
So how to do so, well like most things the idea came to fruition over time and experience so firstly electrically powered boats. The last 2 ships I have served on, over the last decade, have both been hybrid, or semi hybrid electrically powered ships off over 1600 and 2667 Tons each. What's the difference? Well a hybrid vessel has a complete electric propulsion system with with either electric motors replacing the engines, on a conventional propeller shaft, or externally mounted azimuth thrusters which are electric motors that rotate 360 degrees, within a pod under the vessel. However in both cases the electricity is supplied from a bank of diesel generators. in the case of the azimuth thrusters only switch on and off as/when the azimuth thrusters need more or less power. This means no big engine on idle burning un needed fuel.
A semi hybrid system is the same except the main propulsion is still driven by big engines for work conditions like towing big ships, but one of the thrusters is an azimuth thrusters and can be used for station keeping during standby periods on the ships smaller generators.
Both systems reduce the need for fuel when unnecessary, but despite being electric propulsion systems, they still need diesel to power them, as the duration of these vessels duty period would make it impossible to store enough energy in batteries, and cost prohibitive to buy enough batteries to try it. However this does mean that marine electric propulsion systems are common and tested units that have been used longer than most of the new Electric Car systems available today. ABB ltd built the first "Azipod" in 1987 and they have nice been fitted to every conceivable type of commercial vessels, from ferry to cruise liners, and most are powered by diesel generators.
That covers bigger vessels but what about smaller vessels?
Here's where we need to make a difference, there millions of small to medium sized watercraft on the planet all using petrol or diesel engines, whilst steps are being made to power the small recreational boats with electric outboards, with Torqeedo and Bison being market leaders. Nearly all of these existing engines do not have particulate filters or catalytic converters on them, and many are 2 stroke engines that also add oil particulate to the water that operate on. Individualy each boat may not run that many hours per day, or for long distances, but collectively, the tonnage of carbon and particulate pollution soon mounts up to big numbers, and it can only be a matter of time before governments and legislation turns to address this issue.
This is the area I want to want to positively work in and make a difference, unlike big shipping companies, most boat owners are private individuals with budgets and can't afford to take the risk in installing un tested and unproven electrical systems to replace the well tested and dirty diesels. So they need some one to show them the way and highlight the pitfalls and benefits and supply real data on ranges and cost. Ecobarge Ltd was born, after a job offer last year, random chanc, it was a posting on a crew finding message board "Temporary Luxury Hotel Barge Master Wanted" for 2 weeks relief shift. I had not heard of these type of boats, they are floating luxury boutique hotels on the European inland waterways and are growing in popularity as big cruise liners have been tainted by covid outbreaks and regulations. However their area and mode of operation makes them ideal for testing electric boat propulsion systems with frequent stops and plenty of charging points along the waterways, NOT something you can do offshore as easily. The potential for commercial success is higher in this sector as well as the customer will benefit from both silent propulsion and green kudos, for using this as a holiday choice, over and above what existing operators can!
So the Ecobarge concept was born, we aim to remove as many small hydrocarbon engines from marine and inland waterway use, by running running electric vessels, successfully and developing the technology, infrastructure and business model. Whilst providing suppliers, information/data and jobs for others in the green and enclosed economies. We need to currently get funded and are actively looking for backers and investors but feel to do the most good in as short a possible time our best bet id crowdfunding. As this will allow us to push more of the profits back into expansion and development, rather than have it syphoned away in interest repayments and dividends!
We hope you can join us on this voyage and we hope you can help us launch it, so please, Subscribe, Share, Like, Retweet and if possible fund Ecobarge. Thank you! Capt F I Flett. 27/08/2021