Using renewable energy in shipping

Motif image of the lock in Kiel-Holtenau.
© City of Kiel/

Millions in funding for the Kiel-based CAPTN initiative.

  • Reduction of CO2 emissions from shipping through innovations in Schleswig-Holstein
  • Participants: alliance comprising the Kiel University, Fachhochschule Kiel – University of Applied Sciences, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems GmbH, DSN, Ministry for Energy Transition, Climate Protection, Environment and Nature, Wissenschaftszentrum Kiel and 50 other partners

The use of green hydrogen, hydrogen derivatives or other renewable energy sources will contribute significantly towards making shipping in the Kiel Canal as well as the North Sea and Baltic Sea regions more sustainable. The new CAPTN Energy innovation alliance aims to investigate how the associated supply chains of these energy sources can be designed for maritime applications and to develop concrete solutions.

The research project within the framework of the CAPTN initiative has now received a boost from the “WIR! – Change through innovation in the region” programme of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which has earmarked funding of up to 15 million Euros. To date, around 50 partners from business, science and society have shown interest in participating in CAPTN Energy. These partners can apply for part of the funding for projects that match the aims, in order to bring innovations to the maritime energy transition and thus contribute to the reduction of harmful greenhouse gases in shipping.

The funding application was jointly developed by Kiel University (CAU), Fachhochschule Kiel – University of Applied Sciences (FH Kiel), thyssenkrupp Marine Systems GmbH (Kiel branch), the Kiel-based agency DSN Connecting Knowledge and the Wissenschaftszentrum Kiel.
Professor Eckhard Quandt, CAU Vice-President of Research, Transfer, Scientific Infrastructure and Digitalisation believes that the project partners are well positioned for this: “Our goal is to utilise the diverse scientific expertise available at the CAU, in order to research innovative and sustainable supply solutions for the maritime economy that can be transferred from regional ferry traffic to the entire shipping sector, and thereby further advance the scientific excellence of our university.”

The Schleswig-Holstein Ministry for Energy Transition, Climate Protection, Environment and Nature (MEKUN) will provide co-financing of 300,000 Euros for the project. Energy Transition Minister Tobias Goldschmidt said: “The climate crisis must be stopped. Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced – across all sectors. In order to achieve this, we need an energy transition not only on land, but also at sea. The use of renewable energy sources, such as green hydrogen or ammonia, can help to make shipping more sustainable. Schleswig-Holstein should become the number 1 location for climate protection technology. I am therefore delighted that innovative climate protection technologies, which are to be used right on our doorstep in the future, are also being researched and developed here in the state.”

Professor Tobias Hochscherf, Vice-President of the FH Kiel, is certain that the project is very promising for the future: “The energy transition will only succeed if scientific institutions and commercial businesses work together to develop and also implement innovative solutions. CAPTN Energy demonstrates how such cooperation can be achieved successfully in the field of applied research.”

Climate-friendly energy for freight and ferry transport

“Fossil fuels must be replaced by renewable energy sources in the medium term – for example by ‘green’ electricity for short-haul transport via regional ferry connections,” explained alliance spokesperson Dr Frank Meisel, professor of supply chain management at the Institute of Business at the CAU. “Climate-friendly hydrogen, ammonia or methanol are suitable for cargo and passenger ships that are used on longer routes.” The CAU has taken on the leading role for innovation and strategy management. According to Meisel, this role also includes founding and supporting start-up enterprises. The Wissenschaftszentrum Kiel will support CAPTN Energy in a coordinating role: Managing Director Dr Wiebke Müller-Lupp emphasised that their primary objective is to support the maritime economy with its most significant transformation. “With a strong alliance of partners, we will boost the maritime energy transition from Schleswig-Holstein and make a significant contribution towards reducing emissions in shipping.”

“The energy transition in the maritime sector is associated with many technological challenges,” explained Professor Ulf Schümann from the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at the FH Kiel. “Within the scope of our area of activity in power electronics, this innovative collaborative project opens up a wide range of research fields. I look forward to exciting projects over the next six years.”

Cooperation with industry

Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems GmbH is one of the business partners. The industrial enterprise in Kiel is an internationally renowned specialist in high-tech shipbuilding. “We are delighted with the funding – it enables the implementation of many great projects, which aim to boost climate-friendly technologies in the maritime sector here in Schleswig-Holstein,” said Marion Ballach, R&D Project Manager at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems GmbH. “We want to contribute our know-how in the field of hydrogen applications, for example in fuel cell and reforming technology.”

The lack of infrastructure for alternative fuels is seen as one of the greatest challenges in the transformation process of shipping. The conceptualisation of an innovative, flexible, autonomous ship-to-ship refuelling solution is one of the major projects at CAPTN Energy. This solution aims to address the infrastructure problems of supplying ships with alternative energy sources such as hydrogen, ammonia or methanol, especially in urban, already densely built-up port regions. In addition, the project aims to create incentives for switching to alternative propulsion technologies. Thereby, the focus is on providing alternative fuels for ships in a needs-based and efficient manner, explained Marion Ballach.

About the CAPTN initiative:
The “Clean Autonomous Public Transport Network (CAPTN)” initiative, which was founded by Kiel University (CAU), has combined various transdisciplinary activities of CAPTN partners from society, business, science, politics and administration under one maxim since 2018: the establishment of an integrated urban mobility chain of autonomous, clean modes of transport on water and land for public transport. More information:

Photos are available for download at:
Motif image of the lock in Kiel-Holtenau.
© City of Kiel/

Scientific contact:
Prof. Dr Frank Meisel
Institute of Business, CAU
Telephone: 0431/880-1531

Kiel University
Press, Communication and Marketing, Eva Sittig, Text/editing: Joachim Welding/Christin Beeck
Postal address: D-24098 Kiel, Germany, Telephone: (0431) 880-2104, Fax: (0431) 880-1355
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Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Dr Frank Meisel
Institute of Business, Kiel University
Telephone: +49 431-880 1531

Weitere Informationen:

Media Contact

Eva Sittig Presse, Kommunikation und Marketing
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

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