A local electrically driven propulsion manufacturer is supporting Singapore’s effort to electrify its harbour craft by 2025, advancing the port’s decarbonisation efforts
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from local harbour craft is critical to advancing the Port of Singapore’s decarbonisation efforts. Working with the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI), the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) called for proposals in September for the development of commercial models for the electrification of the harbour fleet. Co-funding of S$9M (US$6.8M) would be available from the Maritime Decarbonisation R&D Programme and the Green Energy and Technology Programme for up to three consortiums for the next five years to develop the electrification of harbour craft.
One of the local suppliers enthusiastically embracing the effort is Singapore’s E-Pod Propulsion Pte Ltd. “The Singapore Government has decided to decarbonise all the harbour craft by 2025,” says E-Pod Propulsion Pte Ltd chief executive CW Hon, “and we are the only local company that produces electric thrusters, E-Pods.” Singapore would be looking at electrifying propulsion applications for tugs and launches. Mr Hon sees the company’s involvement in the electric harbour craft project as a springboard to bigger things. “We are gearing up the E-Pod for the world market,” he says.
The Singapore manufacturer has been producing a full line of E-pod units, ranging from tunnel thrusters, stern thrusters, deck-mounted stern thrusters and retractable and rotating auxiliary thrusters, for eight years. Refined to be lighter, more compact and more efficient over the years, E-Pods are all well suited for diesel-electric, marine hybrid-electric and all-electric applications.
With the global clean energy transition in full swing and wide decarbonisation efforts underway in shipping, Mr Hon sees real opportunity for E-Pod propulsion applications. He believes the path ahead for shipping will take a similar route to the auto industry. “I foresee all cars in 10 years will be electric or hybrid-electric.”
To support Mr Hon’s point, 2020 was a breakthrough year for ships with battery systems. According to DNV’s Alternative Fuels Insight, there were 259 battery-powered vessels in 2019, but in 2020 the active fleet rose to 320 vessels, with another 58 on order.
In 2022, the fleet is expected to reach 328 battery-hybrid vessels split between hybrid units (48%), pure electric (24%), plug-in hybrid (23%) and the remaining (5%) of as yet undetermined hybrid type.
Podded propulsion popular
Podded propulsion systems have become increasingly popular across a broad spectrum of offshore energy, cruise, ferry, tug and megayacht applications. As it is a podded propulsion system, E-pod requires less space than a conventional propulsion system because it does not require a direct connection between the propeller shaft and prime mover. This results in reduced torsional, sound and vibration stresses and is more energy efficient, eliminating the loss of power between the shaft lines and gearboxes.
Additionally, as an electric podded propulsion system, E-pod is connected to the prime movers via cabling, allowing for vessel design flexibility. This can potentially offer more room for cargo and workspace.
As an electric propulsor, E-pod is quieter than mechanically driven propellers, providing additional crew and passenger comfort and eliminating hullborne noise. “It’s silent,” says Mr Hon. “There is no vibration, no loss of power and it has high efficiency in driving the ship.”
In diesel-electric applications, Mr Hon says the E-pod power management system offers efficiency and energy-saving advantages. With the power management system, one or two diesel generators can be shut down saving fuel in low-load situations. “This is the biggest advantage for shipowners,” says Mr Hon.
For vessel masters, E-Pod stern thrusters provide excellent manoeuvrability “at your fingertips” using joystick controls. Propeller speed is independent of the main engine speed, leading to “instant manoeuvrability.” There is also an added margin of safety; each stern drive runs off its own genset providing increased propulsion system redundancy.
Dynamic positioning applications can incorporate a combination of E-Pod azimuth stern drives and tunnel thrusters to automatically maintain vessel station-keeping.
Additionally, notes Mr Hon, “The E-pod is electrically driven, making it a green product.” To further enhance the vessel’s carbon footprint, Mr Hon notes that the engines could be operated on biofuel. “Biofuel is an excellent alternative to diesel fuel,” he says. He tells Singapore Solutions that E-Pod Propulsion has been in discussions with a Singapore supplier of biofuel.
Stern thrusters are available in the power range of 100 to 1,050 kW.
Over the years, the company has registered a number of international vessel successes, notes Mr Hon. Two E-Pod 250-kW azimuth thrusters, generators, variable frequency drives and controls were retrofitted on Australia’s Bruny Island car ferry. “The ferry has been operating successfully for seven years, 12 hours per day, transporting cars and passengers in Tasmania,” says Mr Hon.
In Azerbaijan, E-Pod 100-kW tunnel thrusters were supplied for three crew boats built by Baku Shipyard, while 200-kW bow thrusters were provided for four 34-m harbour tugs, including Lamnalco Mukalla, built by Turkey’s Med Marine’s Eregli Shipyard for Smit Lamnalco and several notable megayacht projects were won in Germany, Malaysia and Turkey.
In China, a 25-m multi-role aluminium, catamaran-hulled rescue vessel was constructed with E-Pod Propulsion’s 50-kW vertical retractable thruster and a 22-kW tunnel thruster with variable drive frequency and full control systems. Built in 2014 for the Macau Airport Authority at the Wang Tak Engineering & Shipbuilding Co in Hong Kong, the rescue and security boat Nam Van has a length of 25.5 m, beam of 7.8 m, moulded depth of 3.45 m, draught of 2 m, full-load displacement of 88 tonnes, and wind-resistant capacity of 8 grades. Equipped with fixed-pitch propellers, the foil-assisted Nam Van has a speed of 27 knots. For propulsion power, Nam Van is equipped with two MTU 12V2000M72 diesel engines, each rated at 1,080 kW. For its search and rescue mission, Nam Van is equipped with advanced search and rescue equipment, including a thermal night vision system, large floodlights, medical room, life raft, stretcher bed lifting platform and helicopter lifting area.
Other milestones are ahead for the Singapore propulsion manufacturer. E-Pod Propulsion is in discussions with a shipowner regarding supplying E-pod propulsion for a fishing trawler – the first application of electric podded drives in such a vessel.
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