Nissan’s Solar Panel-Covered Ship, Looks to Harness the Sun for Shipping Efficiency

Sustainable mobility takes to the open water, as Nissan launches its first energy-efficient, coastal car carrier, the Nichioh Maru.

Built by Shin Kurushima Dockyard Co. over a 4-year period, she began her maiden voyage on January 27, 2012.

Nichioh Maru shipping efficiency green nissan
Nichioh Maru, image courtesy NISSAN

Nichioh Maru’s green secret is its energy-saving, electronically-controlled diesel engine, with 281 solar panels fitted to the carrier’s deck, as well as a low-friction coating on its hull, for better hydrodynamic performance.

Compared to an existing car carrier of the same type, the operator claims this ship can achieve a fuel reduction of up to nearly 1,400 tons annually, which converts to an annual reduction of 4,200 tons of CO2 emissions.

These panels, and the LED lights they illuminate in the ship’s hold and crew quarters, are a first in Japan, says Tomohiko Uchiyama, president of Nitto Kaiun Corporation, Roro’s operator.

“As Nissan went to the effort to launch the Nissan LEAF at that time, in terms of the logistical flow, we thought there would be a way for us to contribute using state-of-the-art technologies,” said Uchiyama.

“This is the first domestic vessel to have photovoltaic panels. Together using LED lighting on this ship, we aim to create an energy-efficient carrier.

“And, especially, if we use solar panels, we can reduce CO2 emissions because we don’t need to use oil for operating the generator. Already with this aspect, I believe that we can say that the introduction of this ship is a success.”

With a capacity of up to 1,380 cars, Nichioh Maru will join two other carriers in daily service on a 1,800 km domestic roundtrip route from Oppama Wharf near Yokohama, to Kobe, and then to the southern island of Kyushu — making two roundtrips per week.

Nichioh Maru captainThe ship’s captain, 38-year veteran Tamotsu Sato, is pleased to be at the eco-helm.

“Something that’s gentle to the environment — that’s the most important thing, considering the current system on the ship. And, of course, we also have the solar power system,” said Sato. “This carrier is important in many ways. In my opinion, as a captain, I have no doubt that this ship will be a front runner in this industry…And from here on out,  I plan to do my best to again boost my skill set to work with this new technology.”

Nissan City of St. Petersburg eco
Image courtesy NISSAN

The Nichioh Maru follows in the sustainability wake of the City of St. Petersburg eco-carrier, which Nissan began using in 2010 for international routes in Europe.

This makes the eco-ship a dream carrier, and with more carriers to follow, Nissan is positioned to stay leagues ahead in sustainable mobility.

Vessel Details:

  • Length: 169.95 m
  • Width: 26.00 m
  • Total weight: 11,400 tons
  • Load capacity: Completed vehicles: 880 units (without truck trailers: 1,380 units), with trailers: 115 units
  • Operating speed: 21.2 knots