The global energy and commodity group, Mercuria, has partnered with maritime innovator ÈTA Shipping to establish a joint venture. This collaboration aims to build six initial electric short sea vessels, with an option for an additional ten ships.
The construction of these vessels will be carried out by China’s shipyard Taizhou Sanfu Ship Engineering Co.
The ships will feature the ÈTA 6700 modular vessel design, which means that the ship has no main engine, instead, an electric motor powers the propeller.
Electricity is supplied by generators which can be fuelled by conventional or low-carbon fuels. It is also possible to connect any sustainable power source, such as batteries or fuel-cell technology that can run for example on green hydrogen, methanol or ammonia. Zero emission solutions can be added or replace the originally installed generators.
“The modular design of the vessels allows for an easy replacement of a power source, which can be anything as long as it produces electricity”, explains co-founder Sam Gombra.
“We estimate that it will take less than a day to remove the existing power generation system and replace it, fully or partially, without the need for a shipyard.“
The short-sea vessels will be owned by Mare Balticum BV, a subsidiary of Mercuria, with ÈTA Shipping acting as a minority shareholder. The maiden voyage of the first vessel is planned for the second quarter of 2025.
The ÈTA 6700’s design has been achieved without compromising speed or cargo carrying capacity, and at a comparable new build cost versus conventional vessels, ÈTA Shipping said.
It has a cargo carrying capacity of 7400-ton deadweight but is just under 5000 gross tonnage and can achieve 10.5 knots fully laden at under 900 KW of power. This makes it the most efficient Ice 1A vessel in its peer group, according to its developer.
Automation also plays a big part in efficiency gains and safer maritime operations when compared to traditional vessels. As a result, the ship can be safely managed with a reduced crew size of four, instead of six.
“The vessel’s 3D management tool that uses over 1,300 sensors, enables virtual navigation, equipment data access, and historical trend analysis for crew and technical staff,” noted Walter van Gruijthuijsen, a seasoned naval architect and co-founder of ÈTA Shipping.
The investment in ÈTA Shipping and the new shipbuilding series of ÈTA 6700 vessels gives Mercuria a platform to accelerate the transition to zero carbon shipping and is consistent with their energy transition agenda.
“Three features make these vessels truly unique: future-proof design, efficiency, and automation. Designed with efficiency in mind, ÈTA vessels are already 30% more efficient than a conventional newbuild and about 50% more efficient than the average ship in the legacy fleet,” said Mindaugas Gogelis, Energy Transition Director of Mercuria.
At a time when there is a high degree of uncertainty about the future cost and availability of zero-carbon maritime fuels, it is imperative to maintain the flexibility of choice of future technology.
“The embedded flexibility in ÈTA 6700 design will allow us to offer a tailored decarbonisation pathway optimized to the specific needs of cargo owner or operator,” noted Larry Johnson, Global Head of Freight and Shipping Trading of Mercuria.
“We can go as fast as technical solutions become commercially available.”
Founded by Sam Gombra and Walter van Gruijthuijsen the name ÈTA Shipping comes from the Greek letter η (ÈTA), the symbol used for efficiency, which was the key concept in the vessel design.
ETA Shipping was established to fundamentally rethink the way that cargo ships are designed and built.