MALIN Newbuild, a Scottish marine engineering company, has linked up with an English company in a groundbreaking project to lessen shipping’s environmental impact.

Part of the Malin Group, and specialising in delivering complicated multi-disciplinary design and build projects, the company is aiming to demonstrate “that a vessel fuelled by renewable energy can lead to a revival of civil shipbuilding on the Clyde”.

It is claimed Scotland could lead the way in creating cleaner vessels.

The alternative technology, known as FastRig, has been developed by Wiltshire-based Smart Green Shipping who have been in discussions with the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise about funding the demonstrator’s construction.

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Ben Sharples, Malin Newbuild director, said: “We believe there is a real opportunity here for Scotland to be at the forefront of rapidly developing innovation. Our work so far on FastRig has convinced us of its potential.

“We are currently working with Smart Green Shipping to develop the concept with a view to delivering a full-scale, 40-metre-high test-rig that can be showcased to the world when COP26 comes to Glasgow.”

Diane Gilpin, Smart Green Shipping founder, said: “There are 60,000 vessels in the world running on heavy fuel oil which represents two-thirds of operating costs.

“That is unsustainable.

“China is well advanced on retrofitting ships with wind-assist technologies and has just started on fully optimised newbuilds. Norway is also very active in zero-emission solutions for shipping.

“We think there is a real chance for Scotland, with its engineering abilities and shipbuilding history, to be at the forefront of this transition.”

A retrofitted demonstrator vessel will be partially powered by wind, with the intention to integrate other renewable energy sources, including hydrogen, into future designs.

A feasibility analysis, supported by the Innovate UK programme, of retrofitting FastRigs to an existing 63,000-tonne bulk carrier showed annual fuel and emissions savings of 20%. This would lead to payback for ship operators within three to five years, according to the analysis.  

Ms Gilpin said it would cost around £6 million to get a demonstrator in the water. She said: “There are a lot of people interested but are reluctant to take the first step.  No matter how much computer modelling you can show, there is an understandable desire to see that the technology actually works."