To contribute to the fight against climate change, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has agreed that the shipping industry must reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50% by 2050. In addition, local authorities and shipping companies are setting more ambitious targets on GHG reductions. To help make low carbon operations a reality, Royal IHC has started the Zero emission Vessels Project – ‘our customers are counting on us to rise to the GHG emissions challenge and design vessels and solutions that best meet their needs.’

“Through the Zero-emission Vessels Project, we develop concepts and design tools to optimise energy efficiency and emission reduction,” says Royal IHC’s Head of Vessels Technology Erik van de Blom. “Furthermore, we actively participate in partnerships to take these concepts forward. An example is the ‘innovaties in de kustlijnzorg’ programme of Rijkswaterstaat that is focused on CO2 neutral execution of coastal protection works along the Dutch coastline. Intense collaboration that focuses on a common goal plays a significant role in the race to zero emissions.”


Royal IHC has outlined its vision on achieving zeroemission solutions in a roadmap. “We want to offer our customers the best possible support in the design and technology challenges of zero-emission vessels,” continues Erik. “With this, all aspects that needed to make competitive solutions for decarbonisation are considered. For example, alternative fuels have larger storage volumes than diesel: up to two times more for methanol and six times more for hydrogen.

“To build our knowledge, we explore technology and fuel options, and map out the implications on aspects such as safety, cargo-carrying capacity and competitiveness. We aim to optimise energy efficiency and emission reduction at an early design stage.”


In 2020, Royal IHC Shipbuilding’s Product Development team created concept studies for several vessel types, from dredging to offshore. Erik enthusiastically describes a recently designed zero-emission concept for service operating vessels (SOVs), used for construction and maintenance of offshore wind parks. “This concept is based on valuable input from vessel operators and owners, fuel system suppliers, drive system and tank manufacturers, and classification societies.

“The concept illustrates how zero emissions can be achieved without sacrificing operational efficiency of the vessel: our ultimate goal. Besides a high level of autonomy, the vessel design also addresses crew safety, a comfortable living and working environment, and efficiency in terms of workflow and propulsion systems.”


Another important project pillar is developing tools to optimise energy efficiency and emission reduction. “An example is the Fuel Tool that helps us to calculate the drive system performance, fuel consumption and emissions,” adds Erik. “It enables us to compare drive systems and make efficiency improvement measures in an early design stage.

The tool combines detailed information about drive system components with the power requirements in a vessel’s operational profile. It also helps us to decide on the best drive system design, and optimise decisions with customers and suppliers.”


Royal IHC actively looks for opportunities to test and demonstrate new drive systems, through joint industry projects and partnerships with suppliers, customers, classification societies, and knowledge institutes. “The innovation partnership with Rijkswaterstaat is a good example. We also want to optimise smaller vessel and equipment types such as cutter suction dredgers that are often used inland. Maritime decarbonisation is a tough challenge, but Royal IHC has proven to be good at solving complex puzzles.”


Erik welcomes the growing interest in the environmental impact of shipping and the investments in green fuel production capacity, such as RWE’s electrolysis project Eemshydrogen. “The Royal IHC approach rests on two pillars: minimising energy consumption with smart designs, systems and controls; and integrating clean fuels such as green hydrogen.

“The experience we have obtained while exploring innovative concepts to solve these fundamental challenges is vital in ‘stepping up our game’. Our concept studies will help us to mature designs and optimise operational conditions. In this way, we are creating value as a knowledge partner for customers aiming for profitable zero-emission solutions.”