New Ore Carrier Tests Out Air Lubrication System to Cut Drag

Illustration courtesy Silverstream

Published Jul 1, 2021 4:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

Bubble-lubrication startup Silverstream Technologies announced Thursday that it has completed the installation of its efficiency-boosting system on a newbuild very large ore carrier (VLOC), the Sea Victoria.

The installation is the first time that any air lubrication technology has been deployed on a VLOC. At nearly 325,000 dwt, Sea Victoria ranks among the largest merchant ships in the world. She is the latest in a series of 47 "Guibamax" bulkers constructed for long-term charter to Brazilian mining giant Vale, and is purpose-built for carrying vast quantities of iron ore to China.

Silverstream’s technology creates a carpet of microbubbles on the bottom of the hull, which reduces friction between the hull and the water. This reduces fuel burn and emissions by 5-10 percent, depending on the vessel, the firm says. The technology was chosen by Vale in order to reduce the firm's emissions profile. 

"Vale chose our technology because its proven savings potential completely supports their mission to improve the efficiency of their fleet," said Noah Silberschmidt, Founder & CEO, Silverstream Technologies. "The Silverstream System will drive a step change in fuel and emissions efficiency on the Sea Victoria and prove what is possible on their dry bulk vessels. However, for the industry at large, we are also proving that there are actions that we can take today to mitigate the environmental impact of our operations."

Silverstream completed the first-of-its-kind installation despite the challenges caused by Covid-19, working together with shipowner Pan Ocean, naval architect SDARI, and shipbuilders New Times Shipbuilding and Yiu Lian Dockyards (Shekou) Ltd. Silverstream said that it is continuing to work with Vale to explore the opportunity to install bubble-lubrication systems aboard the remainder of Vale’s chartered fleet.

Vale is the latest in a growing list of name-brand firms to order Silverstream's technology. Other users include Shell, Carnival Corporation and Grimaldi Group.

Vale is working to reduce its supply-chain emissions by investing in a range of clean technologies for its chartered fleet. It is also trialing Flettner rotor technology aboard the newbuild Guibamax Sea Zhoushan, which (like Sea Victoria) will be owned by Pan Ocean Ship Management. The five-rotor installation could reduce the giant ship's fuel costs and emissions by about eight percent, according to rotor sail manufacturer Norsepower, cutting the Zhoushan's annual CO2 emissions by about 3,400 tons.