Visions of Tomorrow – Engineered Today

Journey to a carbon-free world – Introducing the NYK SUPER ECO SHIP 2050

Author Elias Penttinen
Posted on

In 2018, the IMO and the shipping community made a strong commitment: By 2050, greenhouse gases from shipping must be reduced by at least 50% from 2008 levels. For an individual vessel, the reduction needs to be far greater. In order to achieve this goal, the journey must start now, by implementing new and existing technologies.

With these words Japanese shipping company NYK, one of the largest and most diverse shipping operators in the world, launched their challenge for CO₂-neutral shipping in 2050. Prior to the above announcement by the IMO, NYK and its technology development arm, the Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), had already approached Elomatic for a development roadmap towards more environmentally friendly operation.

Back in 2009, Elomatic conducted a technology study for NYK to reduce energy consumption and emissions. The work culminated in a futuristic container vessel, the NYK SUPER ECO SHIP 2030. This project received much attention and won awards for its environmental friendly design. The on-board energy consumption of the Super Eco Ship 2030 was reduced by 40% from the best-in-class vessel at the time.

Almost 10 years later, the time had come to update the study and raise the bar, while aligning it with and exceeding targets set by the IMO and International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). While a wide range of vessel types where addressed, the showcase vessel for the updated study was a Pure Car and Truck Carrier (PCTC). The ship is known as the NYK SUPER ECO SHIP 2050.

By utilising a deep toolbox and touching all fields of ship design and vessel operation, a 70% energy saving compared to today’s benchmark was achieved. Significantly, the potential of emission-free operation was reached, depending on the source of primary fuel.


The challenge

In essence, emission-free operation is simple: use fuel with neutral or no CO₂ emissions. The challenge is that such fuels are rare, expensive and, in most cases, difficult to store. They also tend to be inefficient from an energy efficiency perspective, when the entire footprint from primary energy to a bunker fuel on board the vessel is considered. Thus, the path towards the use of alternative fuels is via highly efficient vessels and highly efficient operation of the total fleet and its logistical chain.

To achieve the 70% reduction in bunker fuel on board the NYK SUPER ECO SHIP 2050, many large and small improvements were made. The most critical aspects are highlighted in the rest of this article.

Resistance, resistance, resistance

For a typical merchant vessel, the biggest power demand is required to overcome the resistance of the vessel. Resistance originates from the need to move the vessel through water and air, with the former being the dominating factor.

The hull volume and shape of a vessel is critical in order to reduce resistance. The hull has to provide buoyancy to carry the weight of the ship and its cargo. To minimise the volume of the hull, it is important to minimise the lightweight of the ship. The lightweight of NYK SUPER ECO SHIP 2050 was reduced by 30% in view of developments in topology optimisation, the potential of 3D printing in manufacturing and materials development.

The other purpose of the hull is provide sufficient stability for the vessel, which is especially critical for a PCTC. Computer-controlled stability has been the norm for fighter jets for some time already. In our vision, ships will also have active devices that provide sufficient stability. In the NYK SUPER ECO SHIP 2050, this has been done with gyro stabilisers, but the actual execution can be any other active device.

The vessel is equipped with pontoons that can be deployed if required. This allows it to remain stable during blackouts and other abnormal situations. These developments will allow hull shape optimisation to be done differently, with a greater focus on resistance. Overall, the reduction in vessel resistance is 35%.


To minimise resistance, the hull has no appendages or discontinuities. The flapping foils that replace conventional propellers do not only improve the efficiency, but are also expected to create less waterborne noise..

Machinery and propulsion

Efficiency is key when it comes to prime movers, power distribution and propulsion equipment.
Hydrogen fuel cells were selected as the prime movers of the vessel. Because the only bunker fuel on board is hydrogen and the prime movers are fuel cells, a lot of auxiliary equipment can be removed and the maintenance requirement reduced.

The electricity from the fuel cells is fed into a highly efficient DC grid, which distributes low-voltage electricity throughout the ship. Savings throughout the electrical distribution have been achieved by minimising electrical components, utilising permanent magnetic motors, advanced power and consumer management and superconductive transmission.

Conventional propellers have been replaced by flapping foils that mimic the movement of dolphins to deliver greater efficiency than screw-type propellers. The efficiency gains originate mainly from the efficient blade operation of the flapping foils.

Another important aspect is the creation of renewable energy on board the vessel. By 2050, solar power will already have been the most cost efficient new source of energy at land-based installations for many years. The same will be true for maritime applications. Therefore, the ship area is optimally utilised for highly efficient solar panels that can move on two axles for the best possible efficiency. On a roundtrip basis, 15% of the vessels energy demand will be covered by solar panels.


The pattern of the structure has been optimised with computer simulations utilising deck and wind loads. Lighting is integrated in the structure.

Zero waste

One way to increase efficiency is to eliminate all sources of waste. Excess heat from machinery is already utilised today to produce electricity, but NYK SUPER ECO SHIP 2050 will go one step further. Because there is no need to use waste heat on NYK SUPER ECO SHIP 2050 to heat bunker fuel and due to its more streamlined crew, the need for heating is further reduced. At the same time, with emission-free exhaust fumes consisting only of water vapour, the temperature of the fumes after heat recovery can be as low as desired, which means that more heat can be recovered. These two developments will increase the potential of heat recovery.

Waste cold is a new stream of waste that originates from cryogenic bunker fuels such as LNG or liquid hydrogen. Excess cold originating from the consumed fuel can be utilised in several ways. It can reduce the required power consumption on board when used for air conditioning and cold equipment in the kitchen. It can also improve the efficiency of power distribution through superconducting and reduce the surface temperature of solar panels.

Other sources of waste originating from ship operation are stored on board the vessel and offloaded in port. This not only improves the environmental footprint of the vessel, but also reduces the amount of equipment required on board and minimises the required energy and maintenance demand.


The effect of operation on emissions from shipping should not be underestimated. Weather routing, just-in-time arrival, as well as advanced power and energy management will be standard procedures by 2050. However, optimisation will be done on a larger scale. Port arrival will be optimised between all vessels heading towards port and shore-based logistical chains will be aligned with the arrival of vessels. Cargo for feeder vessels will not disembark to the port, but will be moved directly from one vessel to another. This will reduce the port stay for the vessel and the lead-time for the cargo.

Time between bunkering will be another important change in vessel operation. As most alternative fuels are more complex and require more storage space compared to current fuels, bunkering will need to be more frequent than current practice. The vessel will require an endurance of 21 days compered to several months for current vessels. This will keep the costs and space demands affiliated with liquid hydrogen at manageable levels.


The NYK SUPER ECO SHIP 2050 is a source of inspiration and a basis for further discussion. The vessel clearly demonstrates the importance of energy efficiency for the adoption of alternative fuels. To achieve the 2050 target, ship owners need to follow the example set by NYK and start planning already today. They need to map the availability and matureness of technology already available, that which is currently being developed, and technology that is only at a visionary stage.

The NYK SUPER ECO SHIP offers a 35% reduction in resistance and a 70% reduction in energy originating from bunker fuel. This opens the door to the use of completely emission-free and greenhouse gas free or neutral fuels, thereby achieving a truly zero emission vessel.

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Elias Penttinen

Senior Design Engineer, Marine & Offshore

Intelligent Engineering

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