So you know everything about cars. What do you know about the monster car carriers that bring an imported car? As far as I am concerned, I knew nothing when I arrived this morning at Nissan’s dock in Oppama, where Japan’s second largest car company showed off a 2012 model car carrier, the Nichioh Maru. And would you believe that the blue and white monster is green?
Actually, I still know nothing about the car carriers that sail the high seas. The Nichioh Maru is a coastal ship. It steams, well, diesels up and down the Japanese archipelago on its route between Oppama, Kobe and Kyushu. On four decks, the Nichioh Maru has room for 1,380 cars. Yesterday, the ship completed its first day on the job by bringing cars to Oppama. Today, it loads Leafs while I watch.
By comparison, the Panama-flagged Eternal Ace that swallows cars for overseas shipping in the dock next door has room for 5,563 cars. That according to Jane’s merchant ships. If you want to get the inside track on a 5,000+ unit class car carrier, simply multiply this story by three and a half, and then deduct the green.
Did I say green? After building zero emission vehicles like the Leaf, Nissan is tackling the ships that bring them. The Nichioh Maru is not quite zero emission yet, but the ship achieves a 20 percent reduction of fuel used and CO2 produced over conventional ships, I am told today.
The ship does so with an electronically controlled 18,000 hp diesel engine (produced by MAN.) The ship has LED lighting in the ship’s hold and living quarters, and its hull is painted with the latest in low friction coating.
The top of the ship is covered with solar power panels, the first time on a coastal ship in Japan, my handlers say. The solar panels create a hefty 50 kW of power, some of it stored in a battery for when the sun don’t shine. That ship is so green that the fire extinguishing system is foam type, and not CO2. Even when in flames, that ship won’t emit unnecessary CO2.
For the nautical gearheads, the engine is an MAN B&W 8S50ME-C8. That is an eight cylinder, super long stroke, 50 centimeter piston, M-program, electronically controlled, “compact” engine, Mark 8. Glad you asked.
Inside, the ship looks like a big multistory garage. Except that there are tie-downs in the floor. To prevent the ship from rolling too much (with possible ill effects on not tied down cars), the ship can shoot water from port to starboard ballast tanks, and back.
First 40 cars loaded. Only 1,340 more to go.
I couldn’t find a steering wheel on the bridge until I found this small thing. The ship appears to steer itself.
And yes, take your shoes off, this is a Japanese ship.
Galley. The crew can dine in style.
A half-empty bottle of sake is quickly removed. I am being assured that its content was offered solely to Shinto deities to bring good luck to the ship.
Captain’s wardroom. More space than in an average Japanese apartment.
An that’s it – tour’s over! While I write this, the Nichioh Maru is already underway to Kobe and Kyushu.