Interview with Silverstream technical expert to understand air lubrication technology XINDE MARINE NEWS Ella Ma 2022-01-07 14:42

In the context of the international shipping industry decarbonization, a group of new players have entered the industry. Air lubrication technology is one of the prominent and reliable technology in the current market. Although some shipowners still adopt the "wait and see" strategy, many people have chosen to test the solution on their ships.
One of the industry leader in air lubrication technology is Silverstream Technologies from UK. The company has been developing this technology for more than ten years and has received more than 70 orders, including Vale, MSC and Maersk. As so many companies think highly of the air lubrication technology, XINDE MARINE NEWS connected with Craig Patrick, a programme director of Silverstream Technology, to have a further exploring of this technology.
Craig Patrick,Programme Director of Silverstream Technologies
Q: Could you please give a brief introduction to air lubrication technology?
A: As you can see, our company's air lubrication technology has been essentially installed on ships to reduce the friction between the hull and water. Reduce friction, reduce the power, reduce the fuel, finally reduce the emissions. It is a technology that has been run for many years. We use the power to make the air, we do it in a very efficient way, therefore, the result saving from air lubrication system is much greater than other traditional and older air lubrication systems that have been used in the past. Also, it is important to know that air lubrication technology has been proven to be effective.
Take MSC's order as an example (refer to: →MSC ordered 30 sets of Silverstream air lubrication systems). The order comes from the company's own wish to reduce their own emissions and fuel consumption of course. They hope to reduce fleet emissions and fuel consumption. A series of ships are involved in this project, all of which will install air lubrication technology at shipyards in Asia.
Different ship types have different effects of air lubrication technology, so I can't give a single ship's emission reduction performance data, it depends on the ship and the ship type. However, from the perspective of the entire project, air lubrication technology can help these ships reduce 1.6 million tons CO2 in their entire life cycle, and save 250 million euros of fuel. Ship emissions reduction is not a short-term pay back, but a long-term strategy, we should not only pay attention to the length of the technology's payback period. MSC is quietly doing things that are beneficial to itself and has been paying attention to and trying new decarbonization technologies.
In addition, the impact of air lubrication technology on crew and ship operations is very small. Air lubrication technology requires maintenance during the entire life cycle of a ship, but only a small part of the maintenance cost is required each year, and the impact on ship operations is small. In addition, this technology is completely automatic, automatic start, automatic stop, no crew operation is required.
Q: Can air lubrication technology provide reducing data on fuel consumption and emissions for ships?
A: Yes. It is very important to transmit the data from the ship to the shore. Shipowners need to know the saving that the system provided, they also hope to work with the Silverstream to optimize this system to make better savings so that this technology can be better used in the future. Our air lubrication technology can currently transfer data from our system to the shore and the operation office, so they can see their ship data, and we can work with the ship owner to optimize the system in order to make better savings. And that is what the Silverstream deliver. we have achieved the data transfer in different ways. Data transfer is key, and we now have numbers of vessels transferring data back to the shore every day.
Q: How long does it take from the contract to delivery?
A: It can be divided into two aspects. First of all, for newbuildings, generally, we can fit in with the newbuilding program of that existing vessel. We supply our power and design on the ship yard integrator in the normal build process. Therefore, there is no big impact in any new building, newbuilding for bulk carrier, newbuilding for container ship and new building for LNG carrier, we can integrate with the standard build program to the ship. On the other hand, with retrofit, we will work according to standard ship dry dock procedures. we prepare all technologies, documents, and equipment in advance. Once the ship arrives, of course, usually in China, we will install it as soon as possible. In this scenario, the installation process only takes 8 to 10 days. We know the dry dock process well, so we are flexible enough to meet customer requirements as much as possible. In early 2022, we will have some shipbuilding projects in Singapore and China.
Q: Do your orders generally come from shipowners or charterers?
A: In the past, when decarbonization began to be talking, our technology benefited charterers more than shipowners, so most of the orders came from the former. There are many big charterers like Shell value what Silverstream did, they have influence to decision to buy. But more recently, more and more shipowners pay an increasing attention to Silverstream air lubrication system. I think this is caused by the successive introduction of shipping decarbonization regulations such as EEDI, EEXI, and CII. These regulations are requirements for shipowners. They need to ensure the energy efficiency of ships and follow up with the IMO's decarbonization goals as much as possible. In addition, although charterers have enough time to look around to tell whether a certain technology is available, shipowners do not have so much time. Our air lubrication technology has advantages at this point, as we have tools on board that can provide accurate emission reduction data and information to show detailed technical status, fuel savings and carbon emissions. In terms of emission reduction, Silverstream does have a slight advantage over other technologies on the market. So now more and more shipowners are coming to consult us.
Q: I heard that Silverstream is preparing to establish a branch in Shanghai in 2022.Do you have some advice to Chinese shipowners, Chinese charterers, and Chinese shipyards under this kind of decarbonization background?
A: Shipping is an important part of global trade. Ships and shipowners play a key role in the shipping industry. Continuously meeting decarbonization regulations is a challenge that shipowners need to face. Charterers such as Amazon and IKEA also hope to see shipowners have the ability to decarbonize (see: → Wal-Mart, IKEA, Amazon, etc.) What is the impact?), they hope that shipowners can take the initiative to decarbonize. Silverstream can provide everything the shipowners need. If owners want to be able to chartering their vessels into this market,  they have to have a decarbonization strategy, and Silverstream can easily play a part on them, and that's why we successful for the last couple of years being so great, charterers are very important to shipowners, so shipowners have to find a solution. My second point is the future, many new fuel types will use in the future, as we know, these fuels will be more expensive per ton, so the air lubrication system has a big outlook in the future. And I hope everyone will take a long-term view and pay attention to the decarbonization technologies that can be used in the market from now.
We have established a branch in Shanghai to support the continuous development and growth of our company. China is an important shipbuilding country in the world. Most importantly, building a base here will provide us with great convenience for installing air lubrication technology on newbuildings and retrofits. We are preparing to recruit a group of engineers, and it is best to recruit some supply chain experts in China. We hope to cooperate with local shipowners, charterers, ship design institutions, shipyards, and classification societies.


The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Xinde Marine News.

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