China COSCO CEO Seriously Considering Nuclear Powered Container Ships

The boss of the world’s largest shipping conglomerate has advocated the use of nuclear power onboard merchant ships.

Outlining the container alliance CKYH’s decision to push ahead with super slow steaming, COSCO ceo and president Capt Wei Jiafu said that the move was in part a green one. He then went on to say that he was in favour of using nuclear power onboard merchant ships as a further green initiative. ‘As they are already onboard submarines, why not cargo ships?’ he mused. Later he spoke to Seatrade Asia Online and revealed COSCO is in talks with the national nuclear authorities to develop nuclear powered ships.

Earlier that morning Wei had said as much as 40% of the global total orderbook is under threat. Wei’s prediction is far higher than most analysts’ at present. He was speaking at the Senior Maritime Forum coorganised by UBM and Seatrade at this year’s Marintec China. Citing ‘financing and cash flow problems in medium and small sized corporations’ since the outbreak of the financial crisis, Wei said that his ‘personal feeling’ was that ‘about 40% of newbuilding orders will be postponed or cancelled this year and next year’. COSCO, itself, has cancelled 126 bulkers and postponed the delivery of a large swathe of boxships by one to two years.

Technical and Economic Analysis of Nuclear Container Ships
This site had examined a study of the economics of nuclear power for commercial shipping. The study showed that a nuclear ship would be $40 million per year cheaper to operate when bunker oil is at $500/ton.
Those studies had indicated improved economics when bunker fuel is over $300/ton. Bunker oil is currently about $375/ton. Also, changing to nuclear powered container ships would reduce air pollution by the equivalent of about 20,000 cars converted to electric per container ship that is converted.

A second article had more analysis, pictures and video.

The 2008 International conference of Container Ship Design & Operation had another presentation of nuclear powered commercial shipping (page 3 of 4) H/T DV82XL at the Energy from Thorium Forum

Analysis of High-Speed Trans-Pacific Nuclear Containership Service
G. A. Sawyer, J. W. Shirley, J A. Stroud, E. Bartlett, General Management
Partners LLC, USA. C. B. McKesson, CCDoTT, USA.

35 knot ships that could hold more cargo could be built and operated more cheaply than regular oil powered ships. Initial costs are 6 times higher ($900 million versus 150 million.) Three nuclear ships could do the work of 4 regular ships and operational costs would be lower. The higher speed means the fast cargo niche could be addressed. A reasonable timeline is for nuclear commercial shipping in the 10-15 year timeframe.

More information in this artiticle “The Ultimate Green Ship: Nuclear Powered ?”

More Economic Analysis

A nuclear powered container ship was analyzed by Femenia, C.R. Cushing & Co, Inc. in 2008.

Capacity 15,000 TEU (a big container ship)
Length 405 m
Beam 60 m
Draft 15.5 m
Speed 32 knots
Power 150 Mw (200,000 SHP)
Propellers 2

Economic Issues
Capital Costs (Source: Femenia, C.R. Cushing & Co, Inc)
150,000 kW (200,000 HP)
1. Assumes Nuclear @ $2500 / kW
2. Assumes Diesel @ $800 / kW
3. Assumes Plant Life 40 Years
4. Assumes Interest Rate 10%

COSCO website

What is the size of a VLCC?

With its US$ 15.4135 billion (122.8825 billion RMB) in annual revenue, COSCO was successfully listed as the 488th of Fortune Global 500 in 2006; in 2007, COSCO secured the 405th of the list with its US$ 20.84 billion (158.5135 billion RMB).

COSCO owns or operates a fleet of more than 800 modern merchant vessels with a total capacity of over 50 million DWT and an annual shipping volume of over 400 million tons, covering over 1,500 ports in 160 countries and territories across the globe, ranking China’s first and world’s second in general. In specific, the containers fleet ranks No.1 in China and No.6 in the world; the dry bulk fleet ranks the top in the world;

VLCC is the abbreviation of “Very Large Crude Carrier”. It is one of the largest crude carriers currently in operation throughout the world. Its deck is as big as 3 soccer fields. Full load of a VLCC on oil is equivalent to the quantity consumed by 8 million private automobiles throughout the country in 10 days. COSCO currently has got 3 VLCCs in operation and will take delivery of another two in 2004.

Why is the fifth-generation container ship reputed as sea mega-carrier?
The fifth-generation containership is regarded as one of the world’s most advanced containerships in service so far. Currently COSCO operates 13 of them. This kind of vessels can carry as many as 5,446 TEU (Twenty Equivalent Unit) in terms of slot capacity. If these containers are connected one by one, such a connection line is supposed to be as long as 33 Km and if a train has 60 carriages, 50 of such trains will be needed to carry all these boxes away. By 2005, COSCO will have taken delivery of another 5 jumbos, each with a slot capacity of up to 8000 TEU. These vessels are probably included in a new generation in global container liner industry. By then, the container fleet of COSCO shall be more powerful.

Britain and other European governments have been accused of underestimating the health risks from shipping pollution following research which shows that one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50m cars.

Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world’s biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world’s 760m cars. Low-grade ship bunker fuel (or fuel oil) has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.

Pressure is mounting on the UN’s International Maritime Organisation and the EU to tighten laws governing ship emissions following the decision by the US government last week to impose a strict 230-mile buffer zone along the entire US coast, a move that is expected to be followed by Canada.

The setting up of a low emission shipping zone follows US academic research which showed that pollution from the world’s 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%