Netherlands Maritime Technology : Sustainable solutions to drive the economic motor
Maritime technology in the Netherlands is highly developed and one of the strongest maritime clusters in the world. The cluster is very compact, with numerous shipyards, maritime equipment suppliers, research institutes, and universities within a radius of less than 100 kilometres. Short distances and close relationships allow the Dutch to develop and build highly efficient and innovative ships with a relatively short delivery time.
Today, a significant part of innovation is aimed at transforming shipping into a more sustainable industry. Whether driven by upcoming IMO regulations, by national legislation or motivated by the societal need to contribute to the UN sustainable development goals or the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Dutch Maritime sector is more than capable to provide sustainable solutions and integrate them into smart ship designs. A lot of technology is already available, but the market introduction is slowed down both by fierce competition on capex and by the low margin to deal with the risks involved.
From the perspective of the ship owner, sustainable innovations might provide a competitive advantage or are simply needed to comply with upcoming regulations. But the real frontrunners are those who can leverage sustainability as a business model. A recent example is the Electric Container Ship Bon Jovi from Nedcargo, which can transport more containers within the same ship dimensions, while using less energy and hence reducing the emissions significantly.
From the perspective of the shipyard, integration of new technologies into highly complex vessels is a significant risk, mainly because the innovation needs to be first time right. Another complicating is the fact that a shipyard does not have possibilities to test and develop a full scale prototype before commercializing its innovation. If it is not first time right, the shipyard is usually bound by performance requirements and might run into contract penalties. One way to reduce such innovation risks is to reduce the uncertainty of the innovation by making small incremental improvements for each vessel, another way is sharing this risk with a frontrunner ship owner who is willing to invest.
To stimulate a faster market uptake of innovative sustainable solutions on ships, the Dutch government has several initiatives. One of these is the SDS scheme, a support measure for shipyards to reduce the innovation risks involved in applying innovations. This measure is highly welcomed by Dutch shipyards, who applied immediately with a variety of proposals addressing both the need to reduce harmful emissions as well as the sustainable use of materials and improved working conditions during operation. With continued support the social effect will be that the sustainability of the shipping sector has already been improved without the need for a legal obligation. In this way the maritime sector can support the Dutch government in reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.