Focus on People, Technology and Regulations in the Maritime Industry

Published: 22.04.24

DBI was guest of a webcast from the world’s largest shipping organisation, BIMCO, on the safety and challenges of alternative fuels at sea. This is a highly topical subject, because experience with conventional fuels cannot be transferred to the new fuels. Watch the full webcast here.

If you’re curious about the latest developments in the international shipping industry, it is a good idea to tune in to the weekly BIMCO webcasts. Here is the latest knowledge of the day in BIMCO’s '15+15' webcast, which consists of an expert presentation followed by a Q&A. Carsten Møller, Business Development Specialist for Maritime and Power-to-X at DBI – the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology, recently joined the webcast. The topic was safety in connection with alternative fuels at sea and the green transition.

- My presentation focuses on the factors that are central to the success of a safe transition to and use of alternative fuels such as ammonia and methanol. For DBI, it is clear that there is a need for a holistic, systemic approach when organising security, says Carsten Møller.

Three Key Challenges

More than 180 BIMCO members from around the world followed the episode with participants from organisations and companies such as Bureau Veritas, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Lloyd’s Register, Maersk and Wärtsilä.

- Experiences with conventional fuels cannot be transferred to the new fuels because they have different properties that lead to different risks and fire scenarios. This means that there is a need for new designs, new methods and processes, new standards and, in the long term, new regulations, says Carsten Møller, also mentioning the challenges that according to DBI are crucial if the alternative fuels are to be used with sufficient safely.

- The human safety aspect is just as important as the technical aspect. Ships' crews often have concerns about the new fuels and they need to be addressed to get the crew to respond appropriately to incidents. There will be a need for new types of scenario-based training based on the type of fuel and the individual ship's design, and one must be willing to invest in this, says Carsten Møller.

Inspiration from Other Industries

With the alternative fuels, new requirements are also being imposed on fire protection systems, because there is not one technical solution that fits all ships. On the contrary, the right technical solution depends on factors such as the fuel type, whether it is a dual-fuel ship and whether it is a newly built or a retrofitted. The varying configurations mean that one set of prescriptive rules cannot cover them all.

- Hydrogen is difficult to detect and the risk of explosion is high. Ammonia is toxic. Methanol burns invisibly. There are several new safety aspects and the question is how to ensure that the technical solutions on a given ship are the right ones. There will be a need for new technical solutions and for using equipment that is not approved under SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) today, Carsten Møller notes.

- You have to look beyond the maritime area and look at technologies used in other industries – for example construction – and examine what works best in the specific configuration. The technology and solutions exist, but they have not been tested for maritime use, he adds.

A Risk-Based Approach is Costly

Without approved technical solutions in this area, it is necessary to embark on the risk-based approach to fire safety that IMO and SOLAS also enable when designing ships.

- It is heavy and opaque, and it costs time and money for everyone involved, including the authorities responsible for approving the solution. You have to use this approach if you want ships on the water. If you are waiting for a set of rules with established solutions, you won't achieve the green transition. Although there are some loose guides in the risk-based approach, it is difficult to find material that ship designers and consultants can seriously rely on. That is why there is a need for well-established, practical examples, emphasises Carsten Møller.

Watch BIMCO’s webcast, and get all DBI’s and Carsten Møller’s tips on safety and alternative fuels at sea here.

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BIMCO (the Baltic and International Maritime Council) is the world’s largest international shipping organisation with approximately 1,900 members, including shipping companies, operators, agents and brokers all over the world. Along with other relevant organisations, BIMCO is responsible for IMO shipping interests and for drawing up internationally recognised and widespread standardised contracts in the maritime sector.


Carsten Møller

Research and Innovation Consultant

+45 24 65 01 88