China launches first electric container ship for Yangtze service

China launches first electric container ship for Yangtze service

China has launched the first of two electric-powered river containerships. The 700 TEU pure power vessel, built for COSCO Shipping Heavy Industry, is part of an effort to use electric-powered vessels throughout the Yangtze region. 

The ship was floated at the shipyard in Yangzhou last year and is currently being referred to by its hull number of N997. Dry dock assembly began in March 2023 after the project kicked off in December 2022. It is scheduled to commence sea trials in late September. It will undergo a thorough verification of the power system.

The vessel is 393 feet in length with a beam of approximately 77.5 feet and 10,000 tonnes. Both ships will have a design draft of 18 feet to provide good manoeuvrability along the Yangtze with a carrying capacity of up to 700 TEU. They are designed to sail a route stretching more than 600 miles along the river and to the sea.

The vessels are said to have the largest installed battery capacity yet placed aboard a ship. They are utilizing a containerised battery approach with 36 replaceable containers as the power source. They will swap batteries at recharging stations along the route.

Each of the ships will be powered by two 900 kW main propulsion motors. When the project was unveiled last year, COSCO said the containerised batteries would be the size of a 20-foot container with a capacity of 50,000 kWh.

In addition, they will employ a smart ship management system to increase the efficiency of the operations, intelligently able to adjust energy consumption based on the needs of the ship. It will plan the speed of the voyage according to the arrival time, water flow, battery capacity and other factors.

Construction on N998, the second vessel of the class, began this month. The ships will be operated by Shanghai Pan Asia Shipping, a subsidiary of COSCO, on the Yangtze from Shanghai to Wuhan. 

During the float-out ceremonies, officials said they were the first batch of green zero-carbon ships and would serve as a pilot for future projects.

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