An international maritime expert, Andreas Sohmen-Pao, the chairman of BW Group, believes nuclear power being used to propel ships could be catastrophic to the shipping industry globally, as the damage would be to the fundamental shipping markets rather than the usual environmental concerns about using atomic energy.

Speaking at a shipping webinar organised by the Norwegian Business Association Singapore where discussions were mostly centered on multiple fuels of the future, Sohmen-Pao warned of the potentially huge market shifts the fuel could bring to shipping.

Nuclear power for shipping has been making headlines this year, and Sohmen-Pao said BW had looked at three nuclear-related companies recently.

On the possible advent of nuclear powered ships becoming widespread in merchant shipping, Sohmen-Pao said:

“The change in the industry is going to be massive and maybe catastrophic because you will have ships going 50% faster because the fuel is essentially free once you’ve paid the up front capex investment and the tanks will be empty because you will have cheap electricity around the world without intermittency.”

He argued that in the event that safe nuclear technology is developed on land and at sea, there would be far less ships needed as vessels would travel faster and they would not be needed to transport energy.

“Approximately 40% of the world’s fleet today carries energy. It’s probably a long way off,” Sohmen-Pao conceded.

Also speaking on the same panel, Laurence Odfjell, chairman of Odfjell Group, said nuclear power for ships was a long shot as ships move around the world and would then need approval from authorities across the globe.

Mikal Bøe, founder of marine nuclear battery company CORE-POWER suggested in an article last month that ‘the reality is that the only viable technology which can deliver a durable combination of close-to-zero emissions, marine-level reliability, walk-away safety and competitive economics, is atomic energy.’