APL developing innovative ship-to-shore power system
Ocean carrier APL said Wednesday it has developed an alternative vessel power system that could lead to the widespread use of ship-to-shore power for vessels at berth.
The system, if successful, could overcome the high-cost of vessel retrofitting that have hampered the spread of ship-to-shore power systems, also known as cold ironing.
In a joint project with the Port of Oakland, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Pacific Gas & Electric, Oakland-based APL will test the new system this summer aboard the 863-foot container vessel APL China.
Cold ironing is being considered by many marine vessel owners and port authorities as a solution to cutting vessel emissions while at dock. The concept calls for vessels to plug into shore-based electricity and thereby shutdown their highly polluting auxiliary engines that typically run while a vessel is at berth. Cold ironing could eliminate more than 1,000 pounds of exhaust pollutants from a typical containership per call.
While not a new idea, cold ironing has not seen widespread use due to the high costs involved in developing the shore-side facilities and retrofitting ship to run on shore-side power. Current systems require up to 10 massive cables to carry power to different points within the vessels electrical system.
Engineers at APL have devised a plan to connect a single high voltage cable from a shore-side power source to a single point in the vessel's electrical system. When the shore-side power source is connected to this single point, the electricity can be back fed to the vessel's main switchboard to power the entire ship. The design allows the use of one three-inch-diameter cable instead of 10 cables, and does not require the installation of a transformer aboard the vessel just for the cold-ironing power. This cuts the cost of retrofitting a ship to use shore power from $1.5 million to $225,000.
APL, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines, plans to test the cold-ironing concept at Middle Harbor Terminal next month with its technical partners — Progressive Electric, of Los Angeles; and Wittmar Engineering and Construction Inc., of Signal Hill. The APL China will be connected to a portable generator powered by clean-burning liquefied natural gas.
During the test, APL will determine if the vessel's transformer can handle the continuous load from a shore-side power source. If the test is successful, APL will begin to assess broader application of the cold-ironing concept.