The world’s first renewable energy-powered vessel has finally landed on Singapore’s shores, making its first and last 10-day stopover this March. We look at how the expedition is mobilising and raising awareness for a green transition while exploring solutions to prove that another energy world is possible.
Energy Observer is the name of a boat, self-sufficient in energy, with zero emissions, zero fine particles, zero noise. Its mission is two-fold: functioning as a laboratory vessel, it’s experimenting and finding innovative solutions to contribute to the decarbonisation of transport for a sustainable maritime energy transition while also building awareness and outreach in its various stopovers.
Starting off in 2017 from the French port city of Saint-Malo, the laboratory vessel has travelled around the world without leaving a carbon footprint, to research renewable energy on board while advocating for its use through its voyage.
Now, the vessel and its crew are in Singapore.
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French design and collaborations
With its sleek design and two tall masts overlooking a large surface covered with solar panels (and trampoline-like nets for some extra fun), the world’s first fully renewable ship is a hard one to miss. Eager to learn more about how the boat works, Green Is The New Black went down to Marina Sentosa Cove at the Exhibition Village.
On the day of the boat’s arrival, we made our way to the press conference held at the Energy Observer Exhibition Village—a gorgeous blue inflatable dome. Free to access, this immersive and interactive exhibition plunges into the heart of the project, for visitors to learn and understand various energy futures. It has seen nearly 300,000 visitors in the past 3 years.
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A narrow corridor at the end of the indoor exhibition led to a room filled with boat crew members and publicists ready for keynote speeches. The ship, they explained, is powered by a combination of renewable energies, where solar, wind and water power have been harnessed to extract hydrogen from seawater through electrolysis.
Louis-Noel Vivies, Energy Observer’s general manager, said: “Hydrogen is like the Swiss Army knife of fuel – it can be burned on a compression engine or used in a fuel cell.” Hydrogen is also readily and immediately available on a maritime vessel.
We were excited to hear about Energy Observer 2’s launch: a unique concept of cargo ships powered by liquid hydrogen. While Energy Observer is conducting some really cutting-edge research, we’re interested to see how it can be scaled up to bigger and more affordable applications that can be extended to the everyday needs of people. Transport vessels that have the potential to replace fossil fuel-run ships (and their accompanying ecological impacts, oil accidents, etc) are truly radical.
In his speech, Marc Abensour, Ambassador of France to Singapore, said, “I am particularly proud that Energy Observer, the world’s first hydrogen-powered vessel, has chosen Singapore for its only stopover in Asia with its exhibition village.” The arrival of Energy Observer is in line with the maritime partnership signed by France and Singapore in 2021.
Singapore: decarbonising maritime transport
Last July, after more than 200 hours of debate in the parliament, France approved the climate change bill to prevent future airport expansions, reduce packaging waste, and more. The bill isn’t perfect but it’s a start. With the new bans, incentives and quotas on transportation, housing and consumption in place, it’s pushing all industries, including maritime, to find greener solutions.
For those wondering why France chose to have this partnership with Singapore: the city-state is a global trading hub. With more than 80% of the world’s trade passing through our seas, Singapore is one of the world’s leading posts. In fact, the maritime industry employs over 160,000 people and faces big challenges for the energy transition.
The development of alternative energy sources to reduce Singapore’s carbon footprint has become a necessity and the decarbonisation of the maritime industry plays an important role. During its stopover here, the Energy Observer will also further advocate for the use of hydrogen fuel aboard vessels through meetings with key stakeholders such as the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).
MPA chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said: “This is the first time that Singapore welcomes a hydrogen-powered and zero-emission vessel, and it speaks of the aspiration we have as a global hub port to welcome more of such low or zero carbon vessels.”
Singapore Francophonie Festival
Coincidentally, the arrival of Energy Observer in Singapore is happening at the same time as the launch of the Singapore Francophonie Festival, which gathers some 20 countries, from 10th to 28 March 2022. Its themes are sustainable development, preservation of biodiversity, the impact of climate change and respect for the environment. Energy Observer village, too, will be hosting events and screening the documentary: “Energy Observer, Messengers of the Earth” at the Science Centre.
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Many discussions will take place during the stopover: two online conferences with the scientists onboard Energy Observer on energy and biodiversity themes, organised with the French Embassy, another with the French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore gathering energy and maritime transport industrialists, and finally a panel organised by the Air Liquide Group in the presence of the Minister of Trade and Industry, the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation and the Economic Development Board.
As part of the awareness-raising and educational missions carried out by the Energy Observer Foundation, school visits will also take place on board the exhibition village and the vessel. Local NGOs such as the Jane Goodall Institute will take part in conversations, and initiatives addressing the deployment of solar energy and the greening of megacities will be discussed.
As we made our way to the boat for a tour of the inside workings, we enjoyed the cool and relaxing breeze on the shore. Whether you’re looking to unwind for the weekend or spend more time with friends/family, we say this is a fun and educational reason to bring everyone down to ONE°15 Marina, Sentosa Cove (Gate 1 & 2) for a calm evening by the water. (Behind the village exhibition, you’ll find a restaurant and playground area too.)
The Energy Observer Exhibition Village will be open to the public on 19 and 20 March 2022. The boat will be visible but cannot be visited by the general public. You may find out more and make a booking before via this website.
FEATURED IMAGE VIA: Antoine Drancey, Energy Observer | IMAGE DESCRIPTION: bird’s eye view of the Energy Observer sailing through a body of water with snow-covered landmasses ahead.
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