Volkswagen Group opts for low-emission natural gas powered vessels for the transport of vehicles

Newbuild natural gas fuelled car carrierfrom Siem Car Carriers.
VW intends to charter two newbuild natural gas fuelled car carrier, powered by 12.600 kW MAN D&T engines, from Siem Car Carriers from 2019. © Siem Car Carrier

From 2019, Volkswagen Group Logistics intends to use two natural gas-powered charter vessels from Siem Car Carriers AS

As one of the first OEMs, the Volkswagen Group has decided to significantly improve the environmental balance of its shipping transport fleet by using two vessels powered by natural gas on routes between Europe and North America. The two planned charter vessels from Siem Car Carriers are a genuine milestone on the way to eco-friendlier shipping transport. In addition, the Group intends to transfer vehicle and material transport in Europe increasingly from trucks to lower-emission means of transport such as ships in the future. The use of natural gas powered roll on/roll off car carriers on other routes is currently being considered.

The two MAN D&T dual-fuel engines powered vessels, with an output of 12.600 kW each, with a length of about 200 meters and a width of about 36 meters, have a capacity of about 4,500 vehicles each. The car carriers, equipped with a 3,000 m³ LNG tank installed below deck, will therefore have a comparable capacity to conventional transatlantic freighters.

The use of the two freighters, which are using natural gas as engine fuel, for vehicle logistics across the North Atlantic will reduce emissions per ship and year by up to 25 percent in the case of CO2, up to 30 percent in the case of NOx, and up to 60 percent in the case of particulate matters (PM), while SOx emissions will be cut by as much as 100 percent. Exhaust emissions will be reduced by the use of advanced dual-fuel marine engine with direct injection and exhaust gas after treatment. The engines used by SIEM Car Carriers will therefore be more environmentally compatible than previous engines.

Thomas Zernechel, Head of Group Logistics, explains: “Compared with other means of transport, marine shipping is one of the most efficient possibilities. Volkswagen Group Logistics already transports half of the vehicles produced by sea. We are continuously working on the optimization of our shipping transport systems. The chartered vessels on which a decision has already been taken are the first milestone.” He adds: “The possibility of changing other vehicle transport vessels chartered by Volkswagen over to natural gas operation will depend on the availability of the necessary infrastructure. Apart from natural gas as an alternative fuel, we are also working on other projects which will continuously make our logistics processes more environmentally compatible.”

The contract partner for the NG vessels is the shipper SIEM Car Carriers AS, which submitted a proposal that was convincing in economic and environmental terms. The two NG ships will replace two of the nine conventional freighters powered by heavy fuel oil from 2019 onwards. These are used exclusively for the Volkswagen Group in a round trip scheme across the North Atlantic serving the markets of Canada, the USA, Mexico and Europe.

The Volkswagen Group already joined the Clean Shipping Network at the beginning of 2014 and was the first German automaker to use this index for assessing the environmental impact of marine transport. Apart from chemicals and waste disposal, the assessment criteria also include emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate emissions (PM) and sulfur oxides (SOx).

The Volkswagen Group is working steadily on alternative, environmentally compatible transport possibilities, not only for vehicle logistics, but also for material logistics. Since the end of 2015, material from Turkey for the Autoeuropa plant in Portugal has been shipped from Izmir to Lisbon by sea. The transfer from road haulage to marine transport on this route cuts annual CO2 emissions by 240 tons. At the same time, the cost to the company is reduced.

Facts & Figures
Operator: Siem Car Carriers AS
Length: about 200 meters
Width: about 36 meters
Capacity: about 4,500 vehicles (7,000 CEU)
Number of decks: 12
Engine: NG-powered dual-fuel marine engine from MAN D&T
Power output: 12,600 kW
LNG tank: 3,000 CBM
Average speed: 16.5 knots in eco mode, max. 19 knots

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Dipl. -Ing. Peter Pospiech
Redaktionsleitung bei mit Schwerpunkt Schiffsbetriebstechnik, Transport, Logistik, Schiffahrt, Hafen und dem weitreichenden Thema Umweltschutz sowie gesetzliche Auflagen für Antriebsmaschinen.