Smart Grid

Shore connection : how to make a ship ready?

shore-connection-la-MeridionaleComplying with environmental regulations and being energy efficient are key commercial differentiators in the shipping industry. Counting with these differentiators requires of having good knowledge of technology’s effects, side-effects and operational implications.

Shore connection has proven to be a longer term solution when we look at the implementation, logistical, environmental and financial aspects of vessels’ operations at berth. Shore connection, enables ships to turn off their diesel engines and connect to on-shore electric power. Shore-based electricity then runs all onboard services required at berth such as safety, ventilation, air conditioning, ballast, etc.

Shore Connection On-board installation

Shore Connection on-board is conceived to reduce the environmental impact of ships at berth. This technology is also able to increase the energy efficiency of these mooring ships. To use power from the shore-based electricity grid, ships must be either built or retrofitted with equipment that enables the connection to shore grid, synchronizes the power changeover from shore to ship and connects the incoming power supply to the ship’s auxiliary power system.

A case study: La Meridionale


La Meridionale is a shipping company that manages three vessels between Marseille and the island of Corsica in France. This company has been strongly investing in having more environmental driven operations for several years. Now, special attention has been given to reduce the impact of the activities of their vessels at berth. This is mainly because of the health impact for citizens in the surrounding areas of Marseille. This area is fast evolving and ever increasingly becoming residential and industrial.

For these means, Schneider Electric proposed a Shore Connection solution to La Meridionale that enables them to connect their ferries to the ports electrical network when they are at berth.

What were the objectives of La Meridionale?

The project of shore connection in the 3 ferries of La Meridionale had two objectives:

  • First an environmental objective, to cut completely the emissions of NOx, SO2 or CO2 and other pollutants at berth, which will highly benefit the city of Marseille.
  • Second an economical objective, to reduce fuel consumption by saving the diesel consumed by the generators that are normally used at berth.

Which entities were implicated in the process?

Schneider Electric provided a global solution, which includes the mechanical and electrical scope in partnership with STX, one of the biggest shipyards on the market. The regular discussions between the three parties STX, Schneider Electric and La Meridionale, allowed the validation, implementation and delivery of the solution. The participation of the ship repair yard CNM (Chantier Naval de Marseille) facilities and its personal were needed to pursue this installation.

How long does it take to make a retrofit?

Ships can be safely retrofitted in a relatively short time while in operation or dry docking, without an interruption of operations. The installation can be completed within 1 to 3 weeks per ship depending on the particular infrastructure of a ship. For La Meridionale, new areas had to be created in order to place all different equipment. This shipping company profited from a dry docking stop (3 to 4 weeks) to update different parts of its infrastructure, including the installation of shore connection facilities on-board.

What does the installation include?

Schneider Electric installed ship-to-shore connection rooms (starboard and port side) in the vessels. These had watertight hydraulic doors, which ensure sealing when the ship is sailing, and leave a passage for the cable when the vessel is docked and ready to be plugged. These rooms also contain the elements that allow commanding the medium voltage switchgears, circuit breaker associated to a protection relay, the physical electrical connection, and a control interface with the ship’s integrated automation system, or power management system. These systems allow the incoming power to be synchronized with the ship’s diesel auxiliary engines before the load is transferred without black-out. The rooms were located close to the hull and in convenient reach of the shore-side cables. The MV voltage equipment and the transformer were installed in a dedicated room on board.

How to operate the system once installed?

Onboard, when the system is up and running, the chief engineer or a staff member trained with ship’s power management system can handle the power transfer.

What is the case for a container on-board system installation?

For a container ship, the system is slightly different as the cable used to connect the ship to on-shore grid has to be stored on board.

To retrofit the vessel, the on-board system consists in container substation which embeds the MV switchgear associated to its control system and a cable reel used to store the cables at sea and to connect the ship to shore connection at dock.

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