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Electric vessels are leading Singapore’s decarbonization charge

Written by Jeff Chay Published on   3 mins read

Recent developments in electric charging and seafaring may contribute to the island city-state’s aspirations of achieving net zero emissions.

On April 8, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) commenced the country’s first pilot trial for an electric harbor craft charging point. Alongside other recent advances in maritime electrification, it marks another important step toward the city-state’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Located at Marina South Pier, the new charging point features a 150-kilowatt charger with an estimated battery capacity of 500 kilowatt-hours, enabling a charging time of about three hours for an operational range of around 50 nautical miles (92.6 kilometers).

The two-year trial, jointly operated by Pyxis Energy, Pyxis Maritime, and SP Mobility, is the first of three awarded by the MPA under a call for proposal for electric vessel charging concepts, while development talks with Seatrium O&G and Yinson Electric remain ongoing.

The launch comes barely two weeks after local startup Pyxis unveiled its new X Tron electric harbor craft, the first from its Pyxis One flagship line. Capable of saving up to 120 kilograms of carbon emissions per hour compared to an equivalent diesel vessel, Pyxis One is one of 11 electric harbor craft designs shortlisted by the MPA for further development. Pyxis is also currently working on two other variants, including Pyxis R, an electric 50-seater sightseeing tour boat, and the luxury-oriented Pyxis L.

Pyxis founder Tommy Phun told shipping news outlet TradeWinds that the startup can accelerate the electrification of Singapore’s launch and workboat sector—largely consisting of small and medium enterprises collectively operating about 1,600 vessels—by pooling resources from various stakeholders. Having raised SGD 4.5 million in a seed funding round earlier in February, the company aims to launch more than 100 electric vessels across the Asia Pacific by 2030.

Singapore is an energy-disadvantaged country that almost exclusively relies on natural gas, a fossil fuel. According to the Energy Market Authority, natural gas currently constitutes 94.3% of the city-state’s energy mix. A mere 4.4% comes from domestic solar and biomass sources, with the remaining 1.2% coming from coal and petroleum.

Despite pledging to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, Singapore’s ventures into alternative energies such as nuclear and low-carbon hydrogen are limited by its geographical constraints.

Electric vessels will hence likely play a pivotal role in Singapore’s push toward renewable energy, especially after the MPA announced a mandate last year requiring all harbor craft built from 2030 onwards to be fully electric, capable of using B100 biofuel or compatible with clean fuels such as hydrogen. The ruling was shortly followed by the opening of the country’s first fully electric ferry service in April 2023, and the launch of its first fully electric cargo vessel in November the same year.

The MPA is also working with partners to establish a supply chain for zero-carbon fuels like green ammonia, hydrogen, and methanol. For example, the inaugural trial of ammonia as a marine fuel occurred in March this year, on board a Singapore-flagged vessel operated by Fortescue. This represents a significant milestone in unlocking the potential of ammonia as a source of clean energy.

Managing the transition of its maritime sector toward renewable energy is essential for Singapore given its status as a strategic hub for global shipping and trade. Singapore is the world’s largest refueling hub for shipping and was named the world’s top maritime center for the tenth year running in 2023.

According to maritime data firm Sinay, the global shipping industry emits around 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, amounting to about 3% of overall emissions.


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