In Focus: Industry stepping up to electric challenge, says British Marine’s CEO

In a time of important change in the marine sector in relation to all things electric, the UK is responding well to the challenges we are facing, writes British Marine’s CEO Lesley Robinson, for Marine Industry News.

The government has made significant funding available to businesses, and so far, industry feedback has shown that it is the right type of funding, supporting not only the research and development of new innovative systems, but also the roll-out and utilisation. We would argue that we still need to see more forward and lateral thinking from the government in some areas, but we are hopeful that our continuing work, engaging with the relevant stakeholders, will help the process along.

Businesses are stepping up into this new area of opportunity, and we have seen an explosion of new technical solutions coming onto the market, in both vessels and systems. Not only from our traditional marine businesses but also from new entrants into the sector, be they companies established within other sectors or new micro businesses looking to support the industry in finding the relevant technical solutions.

Another part of the challenge that is being addressed is infrastructure, with organisations stepping in to help our industry. Aqua superPower and their developing high-speed charging network is a great example of how the marine industry is facing the challenge head-on and creating and finding solutions to the challenge that not only the marine industry is facing, but what we are all facing in all areas of our lives.

At British Marine, we believe our role is to help build the foundations to support change by providing the advice and guidance that businesses need to make suitable business choices and by providing the tools, data and research needed for success.

Standard developments for electric vessels

We have been supporting the development of electrically propelled vessels for a number of years already and were one of the original national representatives of the Electric Propulsion System International Standard development when the project started in 2010.

Today, British Marine remains one of a number of national and international experts sat on the ‘standard’s revision’ working group, supporting its improvements at a time of rapid innovation in this area, alongside supporting the development of the two other major standards for this area of technology – ISO TS 23625 — lithium-ion batteries and its change into a full international standard and ISO 8665-2 Power measurements and declarations – Electric marine propulsion.

The new British Marine Electrics and Electronics Code of Practice for Electric Installations is very close to release. This new edition will include the electric propulsion standard, which will help businesses to safely use these new technologies. Alongside this, the British Marine Electrics Installer course is being updated to include training on Electric Propulsion Systems and safety of working with High Voltage Systems, with an expected release date of late summer 2023.

British Marine has also been working with a number of vessel and system manufacturers over the past few years. From supporting RS in their development of the RS Pulse with technical advice and guidance, to helping new companies such as Lightning Craft with their new electric motors, and RAD propulsion with their new innovative propulsion drive.

We have also seen a number of new exhibitors at the Southampton International Boat Show, showcasing new vessels such as the Vita SEAL and engines such as ePropulsion whilst many other existing companies have expanded their offerings to include these new systems, Barrus have the Shire electric outboard, and Vetus their new electric propulsion motors.

Alternative solutions in addition to electric

Electric propulsion will be one of the solutions that will help the marine industry address the challenge of Net Zero for certain types and usages of vessels, but with current technologies we will need to use a number of alternative solutions in addition to electric. Hydrogen, ammonia, and even replacement e-fuels will also need to be in our toolbox of technologies to help our industry move forward, especially for those vessels with a higher energy requirement and whilst we must change, and change as quickly as possible, we must also manage this transition in the correct manner.

With a fleet in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of existing vessels with significant embedded carbon emissions, we must look to how we bring the industry, the existing fleet and our customers with us on this journey. It is crucial that we do not rush into poorly thought-out solutions; we must continue to gather the data, test, trial and experiment with solutions that will help us make the right decisions for the industry, not just for the next few years, but for its long-term success.

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