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KSOE to Usher in Era of 'Smart' Electric Ships

Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE) is building an electric-powered ship using its own technologies, as it ramps up the efforts to establish an early dominance in the market for eco-friendly vessels.
Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD), a subsidiary of KSOE, recently announced that it has signed an agreement with Ulsan ICT Promotion Agency (UIPA) to build a smart ship with an electric propulsion system featuring the convergence of various information and communication technologies (ICTs).

The agreement signed is part of a state-run project dubbed "construction and demonstration of a smart ship featuring ICT convergence and an electric propulsion system," which is jointly funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of Korea and Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology (KIAT). KSOE held a briefing session with UIPA and other stakeholders before commencing construction, held at the Techno Industrial Complex in the City of Ulsan on July 29.

The ship being constructed by HMD will have a length of 89.2 meters, a width of 12.8 meters, and a height of 5.4 meters when completed, capable of sailing at a maximum speed of 16 knots carrying up to 375 passengers.

Constructed in the yard of HMD based in Ulsan, the ship is scheduled for delivery in October 2022, to run as a passenger ship that takes the route of the "Whales Sea Travel Line" near Jangsaengpo, a port located in the southern part of Ulsan.

Until now, South Korea has relied entirely on imports for electric propulsion systems for ships. With this newly signed shipbuilding contract, however, KSOE is now kicking off full-fledged efforts to commercialize electric-powered ships using its own technologies developed domestically.

In March last year, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) Group became the world's first shipyard to receive an Approval in Principle (AIP) from DNV GL, one of the world's leading classification societies, for its design of an electric ship with a fuel-cell-based hybrid power source. By the end of the same year, the Group completed the construction of a demonstration facility for the application of the next-generation solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology to ships. As such, the Group is stepping up its commitment to developing an electric propulsion system of the future.

Particularly noteworthy about this ship being constructed by HMD is that it will be the nation's first eco-friendly smart vessel that boasts the convergence of four key areas of ICT, namely, a DC-based electric propulsion system; a dual-fuel engine ; an intelligent, integrated control system; and a smart remote control solution.

Of the various state-of-the-art smart ship technologies to be applied in this vessel, the 'intelligent, integrated control system' will include an anti-collision system, a guidance system for docking and undocking, and a route optimization system, while the 'smart remote control technology' will enable more efficient ship monitoring and navigation. A 'smart maintenance system' will also be applied, to self-diagnose risks associated with old shipboard equipment.

At the briefing session, KSOE also signed a four-party memorandum of understanding (MoU) with UIPA, HMD, and Hyundai Global Service (HGS) to develop "smart ship and electric propulsion system technologies."

Under this agreement, HHI Group and the City of Ulsan will cooperate throughout the entire process, from independent technology development and shipbuilding to sea trials and certification for commissioning.

According to IDtechEX, a renowned consultancy that provides global market research, the global market for ships running on electricity is expected to reach USD 12.4 billion by 2029, a huge leap from 2018’s USD 800 million.

"This agreement we signed with UIPA is particularly meaningful as it involves a public-private partnership to work on a Korea-developed electric propulsion system for ships," said an official of KSOE. "Once developed and proven successful with small and mid-sized ships, this cutting-edge technology of our own will be applied more broadly to larger ships as well, which will pave the way for Korea to lead the future of the shipbuilding industry."