Energy and commodity group Mercuria and maritime engineering company ÈTA Shipping have formed a partnership to accelerate the transition to sustainable short-sea shipping.
A joint venture will see the construction of six initial (and ten optional) vessels designed for maximum efficiency, with construction undertaken by Chinese shipyard Taizhou Sanfu Ship Engineering.
The vessels will be owned by Mare Balticum, a subsidiary of Mercuria, with ÈTA Shipping acting as a minority shareholder. The first vessel is planned to begin operation in the second quarter of 2025.
ÈTA Shipping was established to fundamentally rethink the way that cargo ships are designed and built in order to radically improve both their efficiency and the way they operate. The modular design of the ÈTA 6700 vessel means that there is no main engine, instead, an electric motor powers the propeller. Electricity is supplied by generators which can be fuelled by conventional or low carbon fuels. It is possible to connect any sustainable power source, such as batteries or fuel- cell technology that can run on, e.g. green hydrogen, methanol or ammonia. Zero emission solutions can be added or replace the originally installed generators.
Founded by Sam Gombra and Walter van Gruijthuijsen the name ÈTA Shipping comes from the Greek letter η (ÈTA), the symbol used for efficiency, which was the key concept in the vessel design.
ÈTA Shipping co-founder Sam Gombra said: “The modular design of the vessels allows for an easy replacement of a power source, which can be anything as long as it produces electricity. We estimate that it will take less than a day to remove the existing power generation system and replace it, fully or partially, without the need for a shipyard.”
The ÈTA 6700’s efficient design has been achieved without compromising speed or cargo carrying capacity, and at a comparable new build cost to conventional vessels. It has a cargo carrying capacity of 7400 dwt but is just under 5000gt and can achieve 10.5 knots fully laden at under 900kW of power, so it is believed to be the most efficient Ice class 1A vessel in its peer group.
Automation also plays a big part in the efficiency gains and safer maritime operations when compared to traditional vessels. As a result, the ship can be safely managed with a reduced crew size of four, instead of six.
Naval architect and co-founder of ÈTA Shipping Walter van Gruijthuijsen added: “The vessel’s 3D management tool that uses over 1,300 sensors, enables virtual navigation, equipment data access, and historical trend analysis for crew and technical staff.”
The investment in ÈTA Shipping and the new shipbuilding series of ÈTA 6700 vessels gives Mercuria a platform to accelerate the transition to zero carbon shipping and is consistent with its energy transition agenda.
Mindaugas Gogelis, Energy Transition Director, Mercuria said: “Three features make these vessels truly unique: future-proof design, efficiency, and automation. Designed with the efficiency in mind, ÈTA vessels are already 30% more efficient than a conventional newbuild and about 50% more efficient than the average ship in the legacy fleet.”
At a time when there is a high degree of uncertainty about the future cost and availability of zero-carbon maritime fuels, it is considered imperative to maintain the flexibility of choice of future technology.
Larry Johnson, Global Head of Freight and Shipping Trading, Mercuria said: “The embedded flexibility in ÈTA 6700 design will allow us to offer a tailored decarbonisation pathway optimized to the specific needs of cargo owner or operator. We can go as fast as technical solutions become commercially available.”
Both Mercuria and ÈTA Shipping are committed to leading the transition to greener and more efficient shipping. Working with other stakeholders, the partners aim to expand the fleet and make a lasting impact on the maritime industry.
Taizhou Sanfu Ship Engineering was selected for the construction of the ÈTA 6700 vessels because of its flexible and innovative approach. The shipyard sees this cooperation as a great opportunity to bring ÈTA Shipping’s innovative vessel design to reality and contribute towards sustainable short-sea shipping.