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At the current presentation of the German Environmental Award of the German Federal Foundation for the Environment (DBU), one of the most highly endowed awards in Europe, DBU Secretary General Alexander Bonde pointed out how enormously important it is to put "shipping on a climate course". The share of international shipping in global greenhouse gas emissions is, after all, almost three percent. That's more than 1.1 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalents. By comparison, Germany's greenhouse gas emissions are 762 million metric tons per year, according to the Federal Environment Agency. This year's award winners, graduate engineers Friedrich Mewis and Dirk Lehmann, have already succeeded in reducing the consumption of heavy fuel oil by up to ten percent with their "Becker Mewis nozzle" (BMD) for more effective ship propulsion. Another positive side effect is that the quieter drives provide noticeable relief for noise-sensitive marine life. So far, BMD has been installed in 1,400 ships worldwide, and 300 more conversions are firmly planned.

But optimizing existing propulsion systems can only be the first step. For truly sustainable operation of ever heavier ships and ever larger shipping fleets, a radical shift is needed toward propulsion systems that are as climate-neutral as possible - comparable to what is currently being done on our roads.

Landlubbers leave well-trodden paths

Baumüller GmbH, based in Nuremberg, Germany, has been dedicating itself to a wide range of solutions in electrical drive and automation technology for decades and is already successfully using its systems in numerous areas of mobile drive technology. With their wide range of services - starting with the motor, through the converter and the control system, to charging systems, diagnostic tools or battery management - the Franconians offer attractive and efficient alternatives that are also expected to replace classic, heavy-oil-based marine propulsion systems in the medium term. Baumüller sees this as a viable path towards realistic solutions in the field of smart shipping and a wide range of marine services.

Certified products and services for all aspects of ship propulsion

Whether inland vessels, yachts, workboats, offshore vessels or ferries: Baumüller has already had many of its products specially adapted and certified for shipbuilding. For example, the DST2 high-torque motors are equipped with wing mounts that significantly facilitate maritime integration. Lloyd's Register has also confirmed that the high-torque motors meet the specific requirements of the marine industry. In general, Baumuller supplies solutions for all main and auxiliary drives in ships and, in addition to years of experience in shipbuilding, can also offer a wide range of services from project planning to worldwide service.

More efficiency through electrical operation with diesel generators

If one looks only at the pure drive technology, Baumüller is currently focusing on three different concepts, but all of them essentially rely on electrification of the drive. In the diesel-electric hybrid drive, for example, the ship's propellers are driven in electric mode by inverter-fed synchronous motors that draw their energy from diesel generators. The combination of diesel and electric motor is attractive in several respects: in addition to a significant reduction in fuel consumption - in flowing water, the savings are said to be up to 28 percent - noise emissions and vibrations can also be noticeably reduced.

Fully electric and sustainable - e-vessels with battery-electric propulsion systems

The second concept is currently more likely to bear fruit on short-haul routes, for example in ferry operations. Here, the ships or boats are powered purely battery-electrically by electric motors, preferably using lithium-ion batteries. This form of propulsion has the advantage of being quiet and completely emission-free; even fine dust is not produced. The highly efficient synchronous motors from Baumüller are also a perfect fit for a smart overall concept and impress with an efficiency of a good 95 percent, which is hard to beat.

Hydrogen - emission-free opportunity for the future

In addition to diesel-electric hybrid and pure electric solutions, Baumüller is also increasingly dedicated to the development of alternative ship propulsion systems based on hydrogen. Baumüller sees concrete opportunities for hydrogen-based propulsion solutions, especially for ships with fixed routes between certain ports of call. Practicable implementations are already conceivable in the near future, for example in ferry operations or offshore supply voyages. In combination with existing solutions, this would bring us so close to the goal of truly emission-free and efficient propulsion technology that shipping itself would no longer pose a threat to our climate.