m-MSR Operations.

The biggest impact brought about by m-MSR propulsion on operations will be on refuelling.

m-MSRs will be designed to be fuelled for life, hence no refuelling stops are required, and hence refuelling will no longer be an issue to be considered when planning operations.

Consequently, also the range will no longer depend on fuelling, but only on provision capacity

Initially m-MSR powered vessels might be impeded to operate in given areas, in parallel the number of ports and administrations initially allowing berthing of m-MSR ships will be limited and the necessary permits, certificates and paperwork needed before actually calling at a new port will be substantial.

The best strategy for the deployment of m-MSR powered ships may be to start from long time charter contracts related to shipping commodities along a fixed route. The deployment of m-MSR ships on short time charter or for spot voyages will occur in due time, after the relevant stakeholders will have familiarized with this m-MSR vessels and with the challenges and opportunities they allow for.

Once that will happen the growth in open ports will be viral.

m-MSRs will allow operations at very low loads, therefore port operations will not be subject any particular constraints, same as for idling at anchorage. At the same time, in case cold ironing becoming mandatory to curb emissions in ports, m-MSR ships will most likely be exempted due to the absence of direct emissions.

It will be technically possible for m-MSR ships to leverage on the emission free and low-cost power generation to supply power onshore during port calls, via ‘reverse cold ironing.’

Manoeuvring in harbours, especially in case of strong winds, will be greatly facilitated thanks to the very large power reserve that, in turn, will facilitate the installation of transverse thrusters reducing tuggage demand and increasing manoeuvrability of large ships in restricted harbour areas.

Technical ship management of an m-MSR ship should follow the criteria used for conventional ships, with the addition of nuclear specific procedures.

The focal point is the identification of the so called “Duty Holder”, i.e. the organization legally responsible for the operation, and decommissioning of an m-MSR powered ship.

It is unlikely that shipowners and ship managers should assume responsibility for matters related with the compliance to nuclear regulations.

For such reason two alternatives options can be considered:

  • Large ship managers developing a dedicated in-house ship management division;
  • Matters strictly related with the m-MSR management is outsourced to an external organization being solely and exclusively responsible it, possibly as part of a manufacturers’ ‘through life’ maintenance package.

Such outsourcing would fit with in a leasing scheme for the m-MSR, whereby the manufacturer retains ownership of the m-MSR and its fuel and would lease machine and performance to the owners against a Power Purchase Agreement, PPA, with the advantage of transforming the High CAPEX / Low OPEX m-MSR life cycle costs into a Low CAPEX / medium OPEX scheme, mimicking the life cycle costs of Diesel engines.

Much of the monitoring and control of the ship and her machinery will be carried out remotely, at fleet level, from on shore virtual control rooms, constantly receiving from the vessel a stream of real time data. This is already happening, at least in some occasions, and it will see wider and deeper applications in the future in parallel with the progressive digitization of ships.

This approach will be of particular relevance for technical management and maintenance. In particular planned maintenance, which is still the norm for almost the entire world’s fleet despite being substandard, will be superseded by the widespread adoption of ‘Reliability Centered Maintenance’ and predictive maintenance.