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Ex-ISRO engineer helps author world’s first ‘Hydrogen Ship Rules’

Guntur, Andhra Pradesh born-raised and BITS Pilani-educated Padmini Mellacheruvu, a former engineer associated with cryogenic rocket systems at India’s space agency, helped write the world’s first so-called ‘class rules’ for hydrogen powered ships after she quit the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and joined London-based Lloyd’s Register, the oldest and one of the top global ship classification societies.
The ‘class rules’ for hydrogen fuelled ships will support the global shipping industry – which accounts for some 3% of the global carbon emissions – in its endeavour to meet the decarbonisation targets set by the International Maritime Organisation (the UN agency tasked with regulating global shipping) to bri-ng shipping closer to the Paris Agreeme-nt’s 1.5°C temperature-warming limit.

Globally, fleet owners are trying out alternate fuels such as methanol and hydrogen to build and run ships, an effort that will gain speed as the world increasingly pivot towards green energy.

Ship classification societies such as Lloyd’s Register certifies ships for sea worthiness by providing classification and compliance services to the marine and offshore industries, helping ship owners design, construct, operate, and decommission their assets safely as per environmental expectations. This is done by framing rules that are referred to as ‘class rules’.

Writing ‘class rules’ for hydrogen powered ships was an unchartered water for ship classification societies. By hiring Padmini, Lloyd’s Register, founded in 1760, shows how the marine industry is tapping the space industry to pursue its decarbonisation initiatives as it transforms with the twin focus on digitalisation and adoption of green fuels.

“The role of a Lloyd’s Register colleague whether that’s a ship surveyor or whether that is somebody working in our digital survey centre, is changing and will change and what that means is that we’re not looking at those traditional pools anymore in terms of academic or experience background,” Mark Darley, chief operating officer, Lloyd’s Register said in an interview during a visit to Mumbai last week.

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