Finnish Shipping Company Proposes Innovative Zero-Emission Vessel

hybrid renewable energy and battery propulsion
Meriaura's concept for a zero emission inland cargo carrier (Meriaura)

Published Apr 1, 2021 2:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

While attention has been focused on the efforts to reduce emissions from the big, ocean-going vessels, the shortsea and inland shipping sectors have been presenting some of the first, innovative projects to achieve carbon neutrality. The newest example is a hybrid propulsion concept presented by the Finnish family-owned shipping company Meriaura, a transporter of industrial dry bulk and general cargo in Northern Europe primarily in the Baltic and North Sea areas.

The Meriaura Group has started the preparation and design of a transport concept that targets 100 percent carbon neutrality. The concept is based on hybrid propulsion that combines sustainably produced bio-oil and battery technology. The project combines lessons learned from the group’s previous bio-oil projects to achieve full greenhouse gas neutrality by utilizing electricity propulsion based on renewable energy and batteries.

“Meriaura Group’s goal is to launch in 2024 the first transportation concept based on renewable energy since the era of large sailing ships,” says Jussi Malkia, President of Meriaura Group. The company currently operates a fleet of 18 dry cargo ships and newly-built multipurpose deck cargo carriers all designed to operate in the harsh and difficult weather conditions of Northern Europe. Annually they carry about three million tons of cargo ranging from grain, fertilizers, and feedstuff to biofuels, recyclables, forest industry products and wood supply.

This new project seeks to incorporate the depth of the company’s experience to produce a design for a vessel that not only incorporates innovative energy solutions but also uses new technology including digitalization to automate cargo handling.

According to the company, details and commercial operating models are currently under development. The concept is being designed especially for lake, canal and sea feeder traffic, and the plan is to pilot it in lake Saimaa, located in southeast Finland. 

“Lake Saimaa is a perfect pilot area for our concept,” says Malkia. "The region’s strong and progressive industry needs a clear transport route, which will be made possible by the extension of the canal locks.” Meriaura’s project is being designed to the specifications of the lake and its canal system. The goal is to complete the testing and move to commercial operations by 2024.