Nissan's Green Green Car Carrier Nichioh Maru

So, do you think you a lot 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.

3.Eternal-Ace

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.

4.Nichioh-Maru-Deck2

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.

5.Nichioh-Maru-deck

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 coatings.

7.Nichioh-Maru-solar

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.

8.Nichioh-Maru-Deck

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.

9.Nichioh-Maru-cars-loadedl

First 40 cars loaded. Only 1,340 more to go.

10.Nichioh-Maru-Bridge

On the bridge of the Nichioh Maru.

11.Nichioh-Maru-wheel

I couldn’t find a steering wheel on the bridge until I found this small thing. The ship appears to steer itself.

12.Nichioh-Maru-Navigation

It does so assisted by the latest in on-board navigation. Front and stern thrusters obviate tugboats. Just line up with the dock, push a button – dozo!

13.Nichioh-Maru-mess

No messes in this ship’s mess. Everything is neat and tidy, this is a Japanese ship.

14.Nichioh-Maru-shoes

And yes, take your shoes off, this is a Japanese ship..

15.Nichioh-Maru-galley

Galley. The crew can dine in style.

16.Nichioh-Maru-sake

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.

17.Nichioh-Maru-wardroom

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.


  • JJJSpawn

    Nissan…. may not be big on hybrids but they are definitely looking forward. The solar panels does not seem to produce that much power (overall). This amount may be enough for hotel power (lights, and everything that is not propulsion).

    Maybe they can be upgraded later for more efficient panels.

  • Old Man Crowder

    I’m wondering about a CO2 or fuel consumption per vehicle carried? This ship carries only 1380 cars, yet the bigger ones carry 4 times that number. On a per-unit basis, is the smaller ship still more efficient, even with its 20% reduction in fuel?

    If that ship has to make 4 trips to move the same number of cars that one big ship can do, have the fuel savings been negated?

    Can anybody do the math?

  • AP

    It would be interesting to know how they reduced emissions on this ship by 20%. The 50 kW from the solar panels (about 75 horsepower) wouldn’t even power a small car. They might increase fuel economy by 0.1%.

  • Old Man Crowder

    Like a Suburban versus a Prius (or Leaf?). It’s a smaller boat = less fuel required to move it.

    Oh, and don’t forget the fancy smooth paint job!

    I’m not knocking Nissan… I think this is a great first step and hopefully other ships follow suit.

  • scolas

    Why is the guy on the bridge wearing a surgical mask?

    Surely this won’t limit his CO2 emmisions.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    I bet they can’t wait until the Tenn Leaf plant opens….

    MrEnergyCzar

  • hybridhybrid

    the purpose of the solar panels is to provide power to lightings, air conditioning/heating system, ventilation etc. by doing so, the engine may not require a generator to power these

    imagine the prius with the electric water pump. it decreases friction from using the belt hence, increases the efficiency of the engine

  • AP

    hybridhybrid, my point above is that producing 50 kW by solar power only reduces the horsepower the engine has to produce by 50 kW (about 75 HP). The engine driving this ship is huge, say 10,000 HP, so using the solar cells might mean it only runs at 9,925 HP.

    You’d never notice the difference in fuel consumption.

  • the real Nick.

    The propulsion engines don’t have alternators. The solar panels eliminate the need for an APU for normal operations. 50Kw generators are not very efficient.

  • AP

    real Nick, do they really not have alternators? I can’t believe they wouldn’t have a fail-safe for when there’s no sun, or the solar panels fail! You’d literally be dead in the water.

  • M.Farid

    This is marketing,not ecology!!

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