Hamburg’s new bridge technology: shore power supply at the Cruise Center Altona

By Monika Griefahn

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As is often the case when it comes to technological investments, they aren’t very visible from the outside. But with the introduction of the shore power supply for cruise ships in the Altona district of Hamburg both the city’s port and its shipping industries have taken a huge step towards a clean energy supply. The AIDAsol is the first cruise liner that’s gradually being equipped to be able to connect there since the end of May.

A clear indication for the significance of this step is the fact that Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment, Barbara Hendricks, joined Hamburg’s Mayor, Olaf Scholz, for the inauguration ceremony of the power supply on June 3rd. Both politicians emphasised their hope that this example will catch on. The shore power system is able to supply ships with electricity independently of the tides and can provide any frequency performance required by international shipping. It’s the first installation of its kind in Europe and it’s an ideal prerequisite for the investment of roughly 10 million Euros made by the City of Hamburg, the European Union and the federal government to one day yield a return.

Now it’s up to ship owners and cruise operators to equip their vessels so that they’re able to connect to the power supply – just like AIDA has already done in the case of the AIDAsol. Time and again the chicken-and-egg question is being asked. In my opinion, the infrastructure needs to come first. Once the systems are in place, one can justifiably demand of the ship owners that they do everything in their power to operate their vessels as cleanly as possible. AIDA is leading this development in the cruise segment.

As soon as testing is complete – the technicians are hoping that they can calibrate everything within just four ship calls – AIDAsol will be able to completely shut down her diesel engines when docking in the port of Hamburg as she’ll be fully supplied by the shore power system. The shore supply exclusive feeds electricity from renewable sources to the cruise ships. After all it’s the only way a system like this makes sense.

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For me this shore supply system goes beyond simply providing green electricity to cruise ships. The project shows that all sensible ideas must get off the ground at some point. The energy transition is technically feasible – it’s not sorcery as Claudia Kemfert, an energy expert at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) has recently put it. However, it does require the bravery of regulators as well as businesses to get underway. And yes, it may be entirely possible to get a bloody nose in the process. In case that happens however, it will be done better the second time. In any case, hesitation won’t get us anywhere.

In relation to my work for AIDA I am continuously meeting a host of bold people. This includes Dirk Lehmann at Becker Marine Systems who’s responsible for developing the LNG Hybrid Barge for the Hafencity Cruise Terminal as well as those managers and technicians who actively made the choice to lead, be it in the shape of supporting Hummel (as the LNG Hybrid Barge is named), through their work on the shore power supply system or indeed in terms of preparing the huge investment in the direct supply with LNG. The latter will first be realised in the port of Hamburg next year for AIDAprima and her sister vessel and then later also at the Meyer Werft shipyard, where new cruise ships will be developed from 2018/2019 that will be powered exclusively by LNG! Those decision makers within the city council and the port of Hamburg who offered this kind of energy supply have also been courageous. I would therefore like to join Olaf Scholz and Barbara Hendricks in the hope that the shore power supply will set a positive precedent and find many imitators.

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