Some of the world’s most technologically advanced ships including two gas-fuelled tankers and a hybrid offshore vessel have taken prizes at this year’s Marine Propulsion Awards.
The first gas-fuelled Aframax tanker in service, the first shuttle tanker to deploy batteries and LNG fuel, and the first offshore supply vessel in the Gulf of Mexico to be converted for hybrid propulsion were among the winners announced at Riviera Maritime Media’s Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference in Amsterdam.
A distinguished panel of judges selected shortlists from more than 40 nominations across six categories, which were then opened for a public vote. The judges were former Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine president Mikael Makinen, Spliethoff vice president business development Sjaak Klap, AVL product manager system integration Dr Hinrich Mohr, South Shield Marine School head Kevin Lund and Marine Propulsion editor Gavin Lipsith.
The hotly contested Efficiency Improvement Award was won by a variable-speed, permanent magnet shaft generator arrangement supplied by WE Tech to Stena Line’s E-Flexer series of high-efficiency roro vessels built at Avic Weihai shipyard. The configuration contributes to a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to current generation roro vessels. The concept drew plaudits for building on well-established energy saving principles with a novel application of permanent magnet technology.
Stena Line fleet manager Bob Brouwer received the award with WE Tech sales manager Peter Lindstrom. "Stena Line has put the latest technology in its Chinese newbuilds and we will continue to add more more such innovations in the future," Mr Brouwer said.
In the Emissions Reduction Award, the combined design work of Wärtsilä and Teekay Offshore on Aurora Spirit – the first of a series of innovative hybrid shuttle tankers – secured the trophy for the two companies. The vessel and its sisters feature gas-burning engines capable of running on volatile organic compounds emitted from the oil cargos, reducing a potent source of emissions. A battery system supplying electric propulsion also makes the vessels unique in their segment. Huge emission reduction claims from a hitherto unhandled source of pollution won praise for this innovative series.
"We had a good co-operation with Teekay for two years and there are six of these shuttle tankers under construction today," said Wärtsilä sales director Stein Thorsager, who collected the award with Teekay subsidiary ALP Maritime Services' chief operating officer Leo Leusink. "By introducing VOC recovery and transforming it into valuable fuel by mixing it with LNG, we make about 40% of the fuel used on board the vessel."
Seacor’s pioneering decision to convert 10 offshore supply vessels to battery power secured the operator the Hybrid Power & Propulsion Award. The strong collaboration between operator, technology providers and class society ABS – as well as the abundant efficiency and emissions benefits of hybrid operation – clinched the trophy for this landmark offshore ship conversion project
ABS classed the vessel and container ship sector director Jan Otto de Kat collected the award on the shipowner's behalf. "Seacor had a good idea," he said. "It makes sense to put in batteries to help equalise loads. I hope this concept will see further operations. The offshore application is a good start,"
Another new category this year was the Intelligent Monitoring & Maintenance Award, intended to recognise the growing importance of data in optimising ship operations. The prize was secured by two-stroke engine developer WinGD’s trial of its diagnostics and predictive maintenance platform on crude oil tanker Energy Triumph, owned by Golden Energy Management. The trial involved collection and analysis of engine and machinery data to provide real-time knowledge of engine status and was welcomed by judges for providing proof of return on investment for WinGD's substantial project on remote engine diagnostics.
"We started to look into how we could benefit from digitalisation four years ago," said Winterthur Gas & Diesel sales and marketing vice president Rolf Stiefel. "The achievement is developing a state-of-the-art system to carry out remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance in an intelligent way. Thank you to our partner Golden Energy Management for helping us to launch this product."
The new Autonomous & Remote Operations Award also recognised the impact of digitalisation on shipping. The winner from a crowded field – including several projects in the tugboat sector – was Kotug’s remote control trial, as part of which it controlled Tug Training & Consultancy’s 15-m training Rotortug RT Borkum from more than 1,000 km away. The long range of the test, as well as its importance for the further development of remote control technology, was noted by the panel.
"We appreciate our efforts being recognised in this way," said Kotug innovation manager Koos Smoor. "We did this project together with Rotortug, Alphatron, Veth, OnBoard and M2M Blue. They worked on this with us to make it a success."
The Ship of the Year award featured some excellent nominations including the first battery-powered cruise ships from Hurtigruten and the first newbuild gas-fuelled container feeder vessels in Europe. The winner was a breakthrough in terms of the size and range of LNG fuel applications in the tanker market – Sovcomflot’s Aframax tanker Gagarin Prospect, delivered earlier this year. Sovcomflot's pioneering of dual-fuel technology in the large tanker section was welcomed by judges.
"We are grateful to all our partners for their dedicated work," said Sovcomflot executive vice president Igor Tonkovidov. "We always believed that shipping is the most efficient way of transport. But to make the next step while staying commercially efficient makes this prize very special."
While all of the awards recognised state-of-the-art technology, the Graduate Research Award looked for the technologies of tomorrow under development by emerging marine engineering stars. With entries from universities across Europe, this category showcased the breadth of talent training its focus on shipping’s considerable efficiency and environmental challenges. The winning submission, from UCL’s Dr Blanca Pena, studied the energy efficiency potential of an energy-saving device that replicates organic movements. The device was modelled and validated at full scale, showing significant savings potential for bulk carriers.
"The aim of the project was the same as the theme of this conference – making ships more efficient," said Dr Pena, "We are now in the process of filing for patents and the product is ready to be commercialised."
The awards capped the first day of the Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference. The event continues on 9 May. Highlights will be available soon.