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Zero emmisions: The Orcelle is designed to harness solar, wind and wave energy from the ocean as it transports cargo from port to port.

The Orcelle promises emissions-free shipping

Orcelle’s Swedish. She’s got elegant lines; she’s clean, quiet and quite efficient.

Sailing the ocean blue, E/S Orcelle, a concept cargo ship dreamt up by Swedish shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen, will carry up to 10,000 cars and boast zero harmful emissions in the process. She’s every sustainable shipper’s fantasy.

‘[Orcelle was] designed for a future where diminished fossil fuels and increasing environmental responsibility have become important business drivers,’ says Wilhelmsen.

‘The concept vessel does not release any emissions into the atmosphere or the ocean. It utilizes the three main energy sources available at sea: wind, sun and waves,’ says Per Brinchmann, naval architect for Barber Marine Consultants. ‘Besides picking up wind energy, its large sails generate electricity using solar cells fitted to their entire surface. A system of horizontal fins will also make use of wave energy.’

Additionally, a system of hydrogen fuel cells will help power the motor. Some of the hydrogen for the fuel cells would be produced onboard the vessel harnessing solar, wind and wave energy. ‘The only by-products of the production of electricity from fuel cells are water and heat,’ explains Wilhelmsen.

But there’s one hitch: the Orcelle doesn’t exist. According to a company white paper, ‘Wallenius Wilhelmsen is well aware that the technologies required to enable this concept vessel to become a reality in the next 20 years need to be developed.’

Though the Orcelle is not yet a possible reality, the concept of sustainable, clean and efficient commercial shipping and cruising is garnering greater interest in Hawai’i. The island state has 10 commercial harbors while 99 percent of its imports arrive by sea.

According to the state Department of Transportation Harbors division, Honolulu and Kalaeloa Harbors have seen an increase of 19 percent in the last nine years; in 2006, 13.7 million tons of cargo has passed through both harbors.

The Hawai’i State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism reports that visitor expenditures in February 2007 rose 4.2 percent over February of last year to $963.1 million. Bolstering this increase is a 32 percent increase in visitors coming to the state for cruises during the same period.

Cruise ships, with thousands of people aboard, have a host of unique challenges based on shipping humans instead of cargo.

‘Cruise ships have a sweet deal when it comes to environmental laws. They are not held to the same important environmental protection standards that apply to cities and industries that produce a similar amount of waste’ claims Oceana, a Washington, D.C., based advocacy group.

According to Oceana, the average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew generates:

• Approximately 30,000 gallons of human waste and 255,000 gallons of non-sewage gray water every day

• Seven tons of garbage and solid waste every day

• 15 gallons of toxic chemicals every day

• 37,000 gallons of oily bilge water every day

• Air pollutants equivalent to 12,000 automobiles every day

• Hundreds of thousands of gallons of ballast water, with contains diseases, bacteria and invasive species from foreign ports.

How these waste materials and emissions are managed is key.

On a tour last summer aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Pride of Hawai’i, Honolulu City Council members Donovan Dela Cruz, Todd Apo and Charles Djou were given a lesson in the latest cruise ship sewage technology. According to an Aug. 29, 2006, Honolulu Star-Bulletin article, ship officials explained to the council members that the new ship is the most technologically advanced in their fleet. It has a wastewater treatment plant and actually dries and then incinerates sludge instead of sending it to the landfill. At the on-board recycling center, 65 percent of solid waste is recycled. The remaining waste, including food, is incinerated.

The Pride of Hawai’i will be transferred to service in Europe beginning in 2008 according to NCL officials who cite financial losses.

Currently cruise ships may dump treated wastewater within the Hawai’i Marine Area while beyond one nautical mile off shore and traveling at six knots or more.

The Hawai’i Superferry, says it won’t discharge any wastewater into Hawaiian waters. And, though not using renewable sources of fuel, the ferry will utilize a newer, cleaner, low-sulfur fuel.

Shipping and cruising fall under a complicated web of international, federal, state and local regulation. Still, there is relatively little enforcement and laws are lax compared to land-based transportation. Cruise ships, ferries and cargo ships do not fall under the Clean Air Act, nor are they regulated by the Kyoto Accords.

This month a resolution was adopted by the Hawai’i House of Representatives that ‘requests’ all branches of the U.S. government prohibit the dumping of vessel sewage in federal waters in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

New technologies to address clean air and water concerns are already in place in other ports around the globe. In Sydney, Australia, Solar Sailor bring ferry passengers to various locations in the bay. The ferry ships use wind and solar energy; charged electrical batteries are used at night. In order to travel at higher speeds, the ferries turn on a diesel engine.

Orders for the ferry have come in from Germany, elsewhere in Australia and from San Francisco. In the San Francisco Bay, a 600-passenger ferry is on order to bring passengers between the city and Alcatraz. Solar Salior is even developing a hybrid supertanker that would bring fresh water to the dry cities from the wet Kimberly region of the Australia. 

What’s in a name?

The E/S Orcelle is named after the Irrawaddy dolphin, which is also known in French as the orcelle dolphin. The World Wildlife Federation includes the orcelle dolphin, which resembles the beluga whale, among the world’s critically endangered species.

Although the species now inhabits limited coastal and freshwater areas in South-East Asia, Wallenius Wilhelmsen chose to name its ship of the future after the orcelle dolphin in recognition of the immediate danger of this species’ extinction.

The abbreviation, E/S, stands for Environmentally-Sound Ship. The E/S Orcelle releases zero emissions into the atmosphere and no operational discharges into the sea.