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The Renewable Future of Marine Power on The Thames

The Renewable Future of Marine Power on The Thames
Miles Cole, Director

Miles Cole, Director | Net Zero Marine Services

5 min read Partner content

Forging a path to decarbonise the UK’s most iconic river, Net Zero Marine Services (NZMS) will revolutionise the marine environment as it rolls out shore power and green marine hydrogen projects over the next 8 years.

NZMS is targeting an 80% reduction in diesel currently used for shore power by 2027 and 35% reduction total Thames marine diesel emissions by 2029. The pioneering business will steer the river towards a more sustainable future, by developing an electric river highway from Putney to Dartford – a SmartDocks network - designed to attract inward investment and decarbonise the Thames.

Launching early 2023, merging state of the art architectural design with the latest technology, Oceandiva London will be the UK’s first CO2-neutral corporate events venue on the Thames and the first to use the NZMS SmartDock network to charge its all-electric propulsion system. 

The SmartDock network will be available to all river-going operators and ensure the infrastructure is in place for the shift to zero emissions.  Investment by Oceandiva London Shipping ltd and Smart Group totalling over £25m is seen as a new benchmark in net zero marine operations and critical to demonstrating London’s commitment to the net zero economy. It is also a testament to London’s ability to attract this type of investment above global competition.

With sustainability at its core, Oceandiva is committed to leading the industry in minimising utilising advanced technology and environmental practices, including noise-reducing electric engines. Whether static or sailing, the architecture and design of the vessel allows for huge production values, an iconic setting for receptions, gala dinners, cutting edge product launches and brand activations. Spanning three decks and 2625m2 and able to host events for up to 1,500 guests, the extensive exterior space offers a unique opportunity to view London’s famous landmarks.

Greg Lawson, CEO of Smart Group, the owners and operators of the vessel comments: “After several years of development, the launch of Oceandiva London will be a monumental occasion for the city– its trail-blazing technology is already attracting international brands to the city who share London’s eco credentials. The investment made by NZMS and Oceandiva London will ensure a sustainable future for the river making it the single cleanest and 'smartest' capital estuary in the world.”

The SmartDock network will reimagine the future of marine power and lead the transition to net zero emissions by delivering electric shore power solutions supplied via renewable energy tariffs to displace current shore side and onboard diesel generators. Building on its financial loan support from the Port of London Authority to kick start delivery of its first shore power projects, and first of a kind technical approval for shore power infrastructure above the tidal Thames, NZMS has boasted its shore power network from 2 in February 2022, to 16, and is busy expanding outside London. However, there are challenges to the inland marine sector, principally the marine fuel imbalance.

“Procurement cycles in the marine sector are long. This means that operators need to be certain that investments in clean-tech and zero emissions fleets are going to be supported by the right infrastructure, in the right place, required to service their future operations.” Miles Cole, NZMS Director has said. “But the problem we face is inappropriate policy which directly threatens the net zero agenda by favouring diesel and diesel operators”

In the March 2020 budget, the Government pledged to level the playing field by removing the marine fuel duty entitlement in support of the net zero economy. This was reversed in the March 2021 budget to support industry and commerce during Covid. NZMS believe that the most important investment signal the Government could send to the inland marine sector would be to level this imbalance favourable to hydrocarbons.   

“We don’t think that policy should be punitive for any operator, and we are generally encouraged by the direction the Government is taking towards net zero targets for the UK. We ask that marine diesel is treated the same way as other transport or commercial fuel, or that electricity is classed as a marine fuel. Keep it simple and keep it fair. That’s the best way to support our sector towards emissions targets.” Robert Dwan, NZMS Director and director of one of the largest diesel fuel suppliers on the Thames, Thames Marine Services Limited, a Captain with 25 years of experience navigating the waters and 300 years of family history on the Thames.

Current net zero pioneers and investors face high barriers to entry from ‘subsidised’ diesel operators and relatively higher energy costs. For example, Oceandiva powered by zero emissions shore power is set to pay significantly higher operational costs than its diesel competitors. The Port of London Authority cannot expect operators, including its own, to switch to zero emissions if the cost is significantly higher and may lead to a diversion of investment to other capital cities and force authorities into missing emissions targets.

The progress and the support received to date has attracted significant interest globally and has opened the Thames to new opportunities and markets. All that is needed now is a simple step to levelling the competition between marine fuels.

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