Wing in Ground technology (WIG) offers a potential game changer – the ability to ‘fly’ boats at high speed just a few meters above the sea surface with major fuel savings as opposed to conventional ships or aircraft.
MCST has been following this technology closely. In particular we have been working for several years with Korean researchers and regulators including the Korean government, the Korean Maritime Institute, the Wingship Technology Corporation and Aron Flying Ships to undertake validation and economic feasibility studies of this technology.
The Korean government sponsored MCST to host a Blue-Green Symposium, Majuro 1-2 December 2017 to bring international expertise to discuss this project with RMI stakeholders.
To be successful, a program for sub-regional roll-out of this technology and related hard and soft infrastructure in neighboring states will be required.
In 2023, MCST signed a MOU with Gyeongnam Technopark (GNTP) and the Korea Testing Laboratory (KTL) to collaborate in the fields of Ocean Mobility, Energy and the Environment to develop and operate a sustainable and decarbonized transport system for the RMI, the Pacific Islands nations and the Republic of Korea.
There are a number of existing mature technologies at or close to market that the Pacific can rely on to make serious in-roads into its domestic transport emissions footprints and crippling domestic fuel bills – sailing ships, Flettner rotors, WIG craft, active transport modes, even steam powered trains. But at some point, the Pacific will need access to new and alternative non-emitting fuels.
Hydrogen and various hydrogen carriers such as methanol and ammonia – the so-called electro-fuels because they need significant supplies of green electricity to produce the fuel – are the most likely contenders. This is a major conundrum for Pacific states. We can barely afford our addiction to diesel today, how we afford to ever transition to much more expensive alternative imported fuels?
The only solution is if we can somehow produce a surplus of affordable clean electricity. But even after a decade of investment in renewable energy, the reality is none of our Pacific states generate enough clean electricity for their current usage, let alone producing electro-fuels.
And this is where Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) offers a potential solution for our equatorial ocean states, especially our atoll nations. OTEC exploits the temperature differential between very cold deep ocean water sourced from 1000m and very high surface water temperatures experienced by our states. Used in a heat exchanger, this temperature differential can be harnessed to drive a steam generator producing large amounts of low cost electricity.
If this can be delivered, there are numerous multiplier benefits. The condensation from the process produces large amounts of pure fresh water, suitable for potable supply and hydroponics. The cold seawater can be used for Salt Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) replacing electrical air conditioners inside buildings at a fraction of the cost. Aquaculture and root crop enhancement are other benefits.
The theory of OTEC has been well known for many years. However, it is likely only applicable in a narrow band of countries either side of the equator with easy access to deep-water drop-offs. This a relatively limited number of States. But for our micro maritime nations it could be a game changer.
Scientists at the Republic of Korea’s Korea Research Institute of Ships & Ocean engineering (KRISO) have been leading work on Pacific scale OTEC programming.
RMI has considered OTEC several times in the past but this not led to a practical demonstration. In 2017, Dr Hyeon-Ju Kim presented on the potential for OTEC at the 2017 Blue-Green Symposium Korean symposium in Majuro. Korea has now announced a four year program to install and operate a 50khw demonstration plant at CMI’s Arak Campus in Majuro. If this project works then the technology can be replicated at commercial scale.
This joint MCST project with the United Nations Foundation (UNF) UNF and the University College London University Maritime Advisory Services (UCL UMAS) UCL focuses on ongoing professional capacity development for Pacific Island government delegations to enable them to effectively negotiate for high ambition outcomes in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in relation to reducing emissions from international ships.
In its first year (to June 2023) the project supported:
Through workplace internships, postgraduate scholarships, technical and legal support on tap and 'on the job' experiences, the project continues to demonstrate the success of country-driven programming that focuses on education, research and training through a Pacific lens. With more Pacific governments choosing to become part of this initiative of initially six Pacific IMO member states, the ‘6PAC’ is now the '6PAC+'.
Pacific Island delegates meet with IMO Secretary General (July 2023)
Now entering its second year, the project team are focused on the April 2024 GHG meetings and the Steering Committee work on comprehensive impact assessments of mid-term measures to reduce emissions from ships, including the GHG levy proposed by Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands. Other focus areas relate to ensuring an equitable transition, including technical cooperation, legal principles, and transparency in IMO decision-making.
Pacific Island Governments involved in this initiative: Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu
Volume 8 of Teaching Oceania Series, Voyaging in the Pacific is a new e-learning resource prepared by our partners at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.
Teaching Oceania is a publication series created with the collaboration of scholars from around the Pacific region to address the need for appropriate literature for undergraduate Pacific Islands Studies students throughout Oceania. The series is designed to take advantage of digital technology to enhance texts with embedded multimedia content, thought-provoking images, and interactive graphs.
Genz, Joseph H., Celia Bardwell-Jones, Makena Coffman, Darienne Dey, Axel Defngin, Richard Feinberg, Celeste Hao, Hetereki Huke, Tromainne Joab, Tarcisius Kabutaulaka, Alson Kelen, Patrick V. Kirch, Monica LaBriola, Setareki Ledua, Ian Masterson, Alexander Mawyer, Teoratuuaarii Morris, Jerolynn Myazoe, Peter Nuttall, Foley Pfalzgraf, H. Larry Raigetal, and Shania Tamagyongfal. 2023 Voyaging in the Pacific. Volume 8 of Teaching Oceania Series, edited by Joseph Genz. Honolulu: Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai'i–Mānoa.