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Freshwater scarcity is an increasing problem faced by regions all over the world. Four billion people — almost two thirds of the world’s population — experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year, and half of the world’s population could be living in areas facing water scarcity by as early as 2025. With this background, a team of three employees of A.P. Moller — Maersk, who are former seafarers, decided to undertake an innovative project that could store and deliver freshwater from vessels to ports.

Cargo ships undertaking global trade are equipped with freshwater generator systems that produce clean drinking water by distilling sea water using heat energy harnessed from their engines. Traditionally, this system has been used to generate water for consumption only onboard the vessels. However, the excess water produced has been overlooked. Through this innovative project, this untapped resource has been capitalized on by optimizing the process and storing the excess water in tank containers before delivering it to ports.

Each vessel can fill two tank containers on an average sea voyage between two ports. With the process optimized and tank containers stored at the right location onboard, two tank containers with a combined capacity of 50,000 liters can be filled with freshwater. Amongst the first pilot runs were the deliveries at the Port of Colombo and Port of Salalah of two tank containers, each filled with 25,000 liters of freshwater.

Keld M. Christensen, chief executive, Port of Salalah, said: “At Port of Salalah, sustainability is one of our top priorities and we are committed to decarbonizing our operations by 2040. We also recognize that sustainability is not only about decarbonizing supply chains but also protecting our environment and its finite resources. The first tank container of freshwater delivered by Maersk from its vessel is an important milestone that has the potential to pave the path for a larger scheme of things.”

He added: “This project opens doors for many more ships moving around the world, which can replicate this system and create an incredibly large supply of freshwater that can be delivered all around the world to address the ever-increasing challenge of water scarcity.”

A pivotal aspect of the project’s success is its rigorous adherence to quality and environmental standards. The water quality, tested by the Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, an official Sri Lankan government laboratory, met all WHO standards, underscoring the project’s commitment to safety and sustainability. Furthermore, a Life Cycle Assessment study conducted by the Danish Technical University has provided valuable insights into the project’s environmental impact, comparing it favorably against traditional tanker truck water delivery methods.

The fresh water generated and delivered through this innovative project can be used in various ways:

• Consumption at port facilities for basic sanitation, cleaning, and maintenance of offices, warehouses, and restrooms.

• Ship repair at yards for tasks like cleaning vessels, tools, and work areas.

• Container washing before storage or reusing.

• Firefighting at port facilities for emergencies.

• Power generation at power plants located in ports for cooling systems or other processes.

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