The performance offered by the latest high-speed four-stroke engines does not come at the expense of reliability, writes Selwyn Parker
Norwegian operator Fred. Olsen Express has ordered two new high-speed ferries for the Canary Islands. The vessels will traverse the Mediterranean waters at up to 38 knots, powered by four MTU engines per vessel capable of moving 1,100 passengers and up to 276 cars at speeds unimaginable for low-emission power plants just a few years ago.
Even more impressive, these units – the latest version of MTU’s 20-cylinder 8000 M71L – are expected to manage all this with almost guaranteed reliability.
Operators of high-speed ferries cannot afford to have expensive vessels sitting idle while a faulty engine is repaired. Engine manufacturers have risen to the challenge, developing high-speed powerplants that are robust and reliable, despite being worked pretty much non-stop.
Fred. Olsen Express has been transporting people around the Canary Islands for more than 115 years. The new ferries will join a fleet of six fastcraft, including the trimaran Benchijigua and the catamaran Betancuria, both claimed to be the largest in the world in their categories. The Norwegian company is a believer in multi-hulls and the new vessels, which will be launched in 2020, are both trimarans.
An MTU engine will propel Fred. Olsen's new ferry at up to 38 knots
Fred. Olsen Express’s new ferries will be driven by engines that have been constantly refined over the last few years, with the purpose of producing more bang for less buck.
Over the years MTU has booked a near monopoly on propulsion for rapid ferries of all kinds, including double-ended ferries and catamarans. Worldwide, around 820 ferries are powered by MTU engines. One of the most recent to enter service was Red Jet, the latest fastcraft launched by the UK’s Red Funnel to run between the mainland and the Isle of Wight.
“These engines will be in service around-the-clock and we need the best possible efficiency and fuel consumption, coupled with low levels of down time”
Built by Wight Shipyard, the ferry’s four MTU 10V 2000 M72 engines will deliver a top speed of 38 knots. Typically for a fast ferry, it will join a hard-working fleet of three sister ships transporting 1,000 passengers an hour and 3.4M passengers a year.
All Red Funnel’s fast ferries are powered by MTU engines. “Red Jet 7 continues a long tradition of using MTU engines, which began with the Italian-built hydrofoils in the 1970s and 1980s,” explained fleet and technical director Mark Slawson.
“The winning features for us are the low cost of operating the engines and their higher power-to-weight ratios. Coupled with low fuel consumption, they make the vessels very efficient to run. That is important for us considering the heavy operating profile they endure.”
These engines also tick many environmental boxes. The Series 2000 engines have cut NOx emissions by 75% compared with IMO II standards and particulate emissions by 65% compared with EPA Tier III. As such, an additional diesel particulate filter is not necessary.
As MTU’s most powerful unit, the 20-cylinder 8000 M71L will deliver 9,100 kW of power at a low 1,150 rpm.
“High speed ferries run continuously at high speeds,” pointed out MTU’s head of marine and government business Knut Muller. “For this reason, the engines must above all operate reliably over a long service life.”
The German manufacturer is also in the process of delivering 14, 16V 2000 M72 engines for Majestic Ferry in Singapore. They will be installed in seven twin-hulled fast ferries under construction at the PT Cahaya Shipyard in Batam, Indonesia. Optimised for large fast ferries, the 16V 2000 engines produce 1,440 kW. These new catamarans will join Majestic’s existing fleet, transporting passengers at speeds of around 34 knots.
One of the reasons behind the longevity of the 16V 2000 engine is MTU’s proprietary turbocharger technology. Incorporating sequential turbocharging, it delivers boosted power from low engine speeds.
Happy hunting ground
MTU has also booked a big order from the Zhongshan-Hong Kong Passenger Shipping Co-op for Series 2000 engines. These units will propel three, 42-m lightweight carbon fibre ferries at speeds of up to 40 knots, on a high-frequency run between Hong Kong and Guangzhou in China.
The region has been a happy hunting ground for MTU. Even before the latest round of orders, there were over 100 high-speed ferries operating on these waters under MTU power.
The Hong Kong order follows a similar one for eight of the less powerful 10V 2000 M72 engines, to be installed on two new high-speed ferries that will work Norwegian waters. Commissioned by the Nordland Fylkeskommune Municipality, the first of these vessels will be launched in December 2018 with the second following in February 2019. Their service speed will be 32 knots and they will be capable of carrying up to 220 passengers, plus a total of eight tonnes of cargo.
All these high-speed ferries for Hong Kong and Norway are being built by the Brodrene shipyard in Norway, a specialist in carbon fibre construction, whose vessels are famed for their fuel efficiency, strength, lightness and, indirectly, environmental virtue. “Lighter vessels result in lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions,” explained the shipyard’s chief executive Tor Oyvin.
MTU has already started rolling out a range of cleaner and considerably more powerful engines. Covering the 12-, 16- and 20-cylinder range, they will comply with IMO Tier III and EPA Tier IV while straddling a power range from 1,119 kW to 3,220 kW. They will deliver a hefty 45% increase in power compared with the previous versions. The first Tier IV-compliant engines have already been delivered to California’s Water Emergency Transportation Agency for installation in new catamarans.
Although the main priorities for operators are high speeds and bigger payloads, service and maintenance agreements are an important part of the package.
As Fred Olsen’s technical manager Ivan Fernandez Martinez explained: “These engines will be in service around-the-clock and we need the best possible efficiency and fuel consumption, coupled with low levels of down time.”
Put another way, no operator wants a cancelled passage because of an engine breakdown.
The manufacturer’s engineers come as part of an overall package. Under the service contract with Fred. Olsen Express, for instance, MTU will not only send its staff and spare parts for scheduled maintenance to wherever the new ferries happen to be, the manufacturer will also bear the cost for unplanned downtime. This agreement will run for eight years and cover 24,000 operating hours.
If nothing else, that says a lot about MTU’s faith in its high-speed engines.
The manufacturer has invested heavily in digitised, round-the-clock customer service since the beginning of 2018, with its experts sharing information in three locations: Singapore, the company’s headquarters in Friedrichshafen and Novi in in Michigan.
The company is currently testing a system based on data loggers, which allows MTU’s engineers and its customers to remotely monitor engines so that maintenance work can be better scheduled and problems forestalled.
Balearia ferry set to break records
Balearia’s fleet must operate reliably, without compromising the company’s environmental pledges
According to company president Adolfo Utor, Balearia’s new fast ferry will be a record breaker: “[It will be] the longest and highest-capacity fast-ferry catamaran in existence.”
Balearia’s new ferry will be powered by two LNG-fuelled Wärtsilä engines
When this 125-m vessel with a 28-m beam enters the water in the summer of 2020, the engines will transport up to 1,200 passengers and 500 cars (or the equivalent in trucks) at a service speed of 35 knots; top speed will exceed 40 knots. With two LNG fuel tanks, the ferry will have a range of 400 nautical miles at these impressive speeds.
"The conversion reflects Balearia’s commitment to clean power right across the Mediterranean ferry fleet"
Wartsila’s gas-powered engines also benefit the environmental: “If you want a pure win-win solution in terms of emissions reduction, the first thing to do is choose gas,” said Wärtsilä general manager for research co-ordination and funding Sebastiaan Bleuanus in October, in a paper entitled Our Mutual Challenge. “Not only does a gas engine emit between 13-30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a diesel engine, it also delivers huge reductions in local emissions; what’s not to like?”
Well, nothing if you are Balearia president Adolfo Utor, one of the first advocates of low-emission ferries in the Mediterranean. The company committed to converting two diesel-engined vessels to LNG and in August, MAN PrimeServ, the after-sales division of MAN Energy Solutions, won the contract to switch two of Balearia’s ropax ferries to duel-fuel operation.
(On left) Adolfo Utor (Baleari): Committed to clean power
Sister ships, the Napoles and Sicilia, currently powered by two MAN 9L48/60A main engines, will be converted to 9L51/60DF systems fuelled by LNG.
In quick turnarounds, the Sicilia will be converted in Spain over just three months -- between November and January 2019 – while the Napoles will be fitted between October and December 2019.
Although these vessels are not high-speed ferries, the conversion reflects Balearia’s commitment to clean power right across the Mediterranean ferry fleet. As Balearia director general of operations Ettore Morace said: “[This] is a strategic line for Balearia, based on the use of LNG and other clean energies as well as the fleet’s eco-efficiency.”
If these conversions are as successful as the ground-breaking switch to LNG by MAN of the Wes Amelie - a 1,036 TEU feeder container ship run by Wessel Reederei - the ferry conversions will be something of a landmark. Emissions from the Wes Amelie, which plies the highly regulated Nordic and Baltic Seas, have fallen dramatically, with SOx emissions down by about 99%, NOx by 90%, and CO2 by approximately 20%. According to MAN Energy Solutions, the vessel now meets Tier II and Tier III standards.