Bibby wins new support for net zero vessels

Historic Liverpool business Bibby Line Group will continue its mission to build a new generation of net zero carbon ships after securing fresh Government support. Tony McDonough reports

Bibby Marine
Bibby Marine is looking to develop a net zero carbon vessel


One of Liverpools oldest businesses is pushing on with its effort to help revolutionise shipping after winning fresh Government supper to develop net zero carbon vessels.

In 2020 Bibby Marine, a subsidiary of Bibby Line Group (BLG), launched the WaveMaster Zero C. This was a project to develop new offshore support vessels that use alternative sources of propulsion and move away from traditional marine fuel.

WaveMaster Zero C secured grant funding from Government project, MarRI-UK. Bibby Marine, along with a number of industry partners such as shipbuilder Damen and Lloyds Register, successfully carried out research and development work.

Now in a separate but related project Bibby Marine has secured more Government funding in the second round of the Government’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition 2 (CMDC 2).

As part of the CMDC 2, the Department for Transport allocated more than £14m to 31 projects supported by 121 organisations from across the UK. They are looking to deliver feasibility studies and collaborative research and development projects in ‘clean maritime’.

Bibby Marine currently operates two service operation vessels (SOVs) which have both come into service in the last few years.

These SOVs are floating powerhouses that provide support for offshore facilities such as wind farms and gas and oil fields. They will carry up to 90 people for weeks at a time and they have very big power needs.

Each vessel generates 6-7 MW of power. In the course of a year both vessels will use enough energy to power 800 homes and 18m miles of car journeys. This adds up to around 14,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Speaking at the Maritime Exchange conference, organised by Mersey Maritime, in June, Kevin Brown, commercial and contracts leader at Bibby Marine, outlined how the project could be revolutionary in terms of its impact on ship propulsion.

“For the past two years we have been looking at how we can make these vessels better,” said Kevin. “And we are also looking to create a new generation of cleaner vessels. We want to build the first zero carbon vessel in this sector.”

During the Wavemaster C project alternative fuels such as hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), green methanol, all-electric, and hydrogen, gaseous / liquid were all looked at.

The latest Government funding will support the company’s “Service Operation Vessel Offshore Charging System’ project. This will specifically look at the use of electrical batteries to power vessels, and how they are charged both on and offshore. 

Bibby Marine chief executive Nigel Quinn said: “Bibby Marine has been operating for more than 200 years and we have a long history of innovation in the maritime sector. This programme is the next step in the vital, back breaking technical groundwork we need to undertake, to lead us towards a brighter zero carbon future.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats we have ever faced. The shipping industry, while efficient versus other modes of transportation, still has a huge task to decarbonise.


Bibby Wavemaster 1
Bibby Wavemaster 1, an offshore support vessel on the Mersey. Picture by Tony McDonough
Sir Michael Bibby
Bibby Line Group chairman Sir Michael Bibby speaks at the Maritime Exchange. Picture by Tony McDonough


“However, the good news is that clean, and cleaner, fuel pathways are key enablers to making this happen – with the funds from the CMDC, we have the perfect platform to springboard into tomorrow’s future today.

“We hope that our research can enable us to bring our vision of an electrically powered SOV, coupled with the ability to charge offshore, into reality. This will pave the way for decarbonisation of this type of vessel, ensuring a clean vessel that serves a clean industry.”

Also speaking at the Maritime Exchange event in the summer, BLG chairman, Sir Michael Bibby, said it was critical the Government provided seed funding to turn its idea into reality.

He said: “We need to be the leaders in this technology and we need to do it now.”

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