New Marine Propulsion Systems Meet Reliability, Efficiency and Environmental Challenges

Evolutionary vessel propulsion systems have proved their maturity by successfully meeting challenges of reliability, efficiency and demanding environmental requirements. These systems are designed to offer a number of propulsion options for vessels of various sizes. Their affordability is another compelling feature for the market highly interested in the system integration.

Diesel-electric propulsion

A simplified and a substantially flexible solution, which forms a stable operating system with all prime mover designs, has been introduced by Inpower, a company headquarted in Norway. Featuring the smallest possible number of components, the PhiDRIVE from Inpower is deemed to be the world’s most efficient electric propulsion system for vessels. It is founded on the most structured directly paired, permanent magnet machines. These machines are combined between a prime mover and a propeller, with a power cable as their only connection. Therefore, the PhiDRIVE provides a better hull utilization compared to conventional diesel-electric or mechanical systems. Reduced use of power electronics and the corresponding energy loses result in a considerable efficiency improvement. Additional efficiency is acquired by utilization of permanent magnet machines including more compact installations. Increased efficiency and lower volume lead to improved power density.

Meloyfjord Fishing Company from Norway selected the STADT STASCHO diesel-electric propulsion system as it preferred choice for its vessel MS Meloyfjord. This vessel accounts for the fourth fishing vessel built in Norway based on the STADT solution featuring compact size and low noise that has now become a clear trend for newbuild Norwegian vessels in fisheries and research.


This innovation offers a reduced system complexity and downtime risks, increased reliability and extended service life. Sinusoidal voltage and current are supplied to the electric motor and back to the switchboard. This structure marks low harmonic disturbances in the main switchboard and motor, and dispenses with the need for transformers and filters, giving rise to a more compact configuration.

Siemens Industry, Inc. secured a contract to equip two PSVs, which will be built for Tidewater Marine LLC, with the Siemens Blue diesel electric propulsion solution.


This innovation will improve reliability largely contributing to reduction of lower maintenance costs, increasing efficiency and operational performance. The vessel features advanced design that will also decrease fuel consumption and emissions. The delivery is scheduled for the end of 2012.

Azimuth thrusters – enhanced arrangement solutions

The ferry M/F Eiksund is a research and development concept representing a successful novel propulsion system installation and testing. The novel propulsion system retrofitted to the 49m double-ended ferry combines PhiDRIVE with the azimuth rim-driven thruster (ARDT) design developed by Brunvoll AS.

This is the first example of rim driven azimuth thrusters used for main propulsion on a ship for commercial service, with an ARDT unit fitted at each end of the vessel. Previous applications of rim-driven technology had served to tunnel thrusters.

Hybrid marine propulsion solutions

Seattle headquartered Northern Lights, Inc. (NLI), introduced an environmentally compatible hybrid marine propulsion solution developed to fit a number of marine applications. It eliminates wet stacking lowering both energy waste and fuel costs. NLI’s Lugger propulsion engines are combined with BAE Systems’ HybriDrive Propulsion System. A Propulsion Control System (PCS) efficiently directs power produced from the electric generator for immediate use or stores it in the Energy Storage System (ESS), while the propulsion motor provides power to the prop.

The NLI hybrid-marine system can be applied as a conventional propulsion system; however it can also be incorporated into an auxiliary power kit to provide the ship’s service AC power without generating the waste and pollution. The hybrid system can be outfitted for accessory power for modern vessels’ complex thruster and winch systems.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) has launched a concept for its Low Emission Hybrid Ferries Project. These innovative ferries will account for the world’s first sea going Roll On Roll Off vehicle and passenger diesel electric hybrid ferries in Scotland. Some of the most innovative new “clean” technology, such as battery banks ensuring a minimum of 20% of energy for the on board consumption, will be utilized. The vessels will feature small diesel generator sets, directing power to a 400 volt switchboard, which will supply power to electric propulsion motors that turn the propulsion units.

Two lithium-ion battery banks with a total of 700kWh will be providing power to the units while reducing fuel and CO2 consumption by at least 20%. The battery bank charging will take place during nights from the mains. The vessel design and power configuration will contribute 19-24% savings of power input to the propulsion units by incorporating a conventional diesel mechanical solution reducing emissions. This innovation my initiate utilization of energy derived from local wind, wave or solar systems for battery charging.

Siemens has set new standards by further developing EcoProp, a hybrid propulsion system for smaller ships, boats and yachts, securing maximum efficiency. The system operation can be set to Diesel mode, Battery mode, Electro mode and Hybrid mode. The overall performance of the ship is enhanced through streamlined operation of diesel engines. The system is more like a “plug and play” solution thus more flexibility is ensured for the ship’s layout. Siship EcoProp will be installed on a 65m supply vessel set to be delivered in 2012 to the Italian coastguard service by Cantieri Kavali Megande.

Azipod propulsion system

This concept was unveiled approximately 20 years ago and has been acknowledged as a major propulsion system for luxury cruise liners and ice going tonnage due to its maneuverability, improved performance, reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

ABB has secured a contract to provide energy-efficient power and propulsion systems for two new icebreaking vessels designed to operate under extreme arctic environmental conditions in drifting ice up to 1.7 m thick and temperatures down to -35ºC. The vessels will be constructed by the Arctech Helsinki Shipyard in Finland and ABB’s equipment will comprise power generation and distribution systems, thruster motors, and two 6.5 MW propulsion systems including drives and the Azipod energy-efficient electric propulsion units. Both newbuilds should be delivered in spring 2013 to the shipping company Sovcomflot, which is going to deploy them to transport supplies to the Sakhalin-1 platform that will host the Arkutun-Dagi field development off Sakhalin Island.

Shipbuilding Tribune Staff, February 3, 2012;

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Posted on February 3, 2012

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