MS Oasis of the Seas may just be the best advert for ABB and one of its flagship products, Azipod. The colossal vessel cruising the Caribbean is equipped with a tailor-made system that includes three electric Azipod propulsion units.
At up to 20 megawatts, a single Azipod unit is as powerful as 250 cars. The unit can be rotated 360 degrees, thus providing a vessel with not only propulsion, but also steering. All this is achieved in a single efficient, space-saving unit.
Azipod enables a vessel to have its forces directed exactly where they are needed. Thanks to this, operation of even a large ship can be smooth, while manoeuvring safely in small harbours and other confined areas without the aid of a tugboat is made possible.
Together with other ABB power solutions, Azipod also offers high levels of fuel efficiency, with fuel savings of up to 15 percent. Add into the bargain reduced levels of noise and vibration as well as improved passenger comfort, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Industrial PRIME is sold. And we are not alone.
Market Demand Is on the Rise
Azipod was originally introduced in the early 1990s. 20-odd years on, the changing global conditions mean that the demand for such cutting-edge solutions is higher than ever.
Indeed, the demand for the evolved, new-generation Azipod is on the rise. More than 90 vessels around the world are already equipped with Azipod, and there are more waiting in the line. The year 2014 marked a record for its sales, with orders worth € 700 million received by ABB.
The majority of Azipod units are manufactured in Finland. Weighing up to 80 tonnes, a single Azipod unit takes about eight weeks and ten man-years to manufacture. The current production capacity of the facility in Finland is between 30 and 40 units per year. Smaller units are manufactured in another facility, located in China.
According to Heikki Soljama, Head of ABB Marine and Cranes, the business is good, and so is the outlook for it.
“To begin with, 90% of the world’s commerce travels by ocean,” says Soljama. “This being the single most cost efficient and environmentally friendly mode of shipping, I don’t see it that anything in the foreseeable future would change this.”
In fact, according to ABB, seaborne trade is set to double over the next 15 years.
When ships are ordered, the manufacturing costs of the ship itself are no longer of greatest importance: what really matters is the actual operation costs throughout the ship’s life cycle. Fuel efficiency is thus becoming increasingly important, and this is where Azipod comes in handy.
Currently, there are two major markets that are expected to increase the demand for Azipod.
“First, with the number of cruise passengers across the globe growing steadily, around ten large cruise ships are ordered every year,” Juha Koskela, Business Unit Manager at ABB Marine Finland, says. “Improved energy efficiency and manoeuvrability are among the top criteria for these ships. Practically all clients go for electric propulsion, and many choose Azipod.”
“Second, the demand for offshore oil, gas, and other natural resources is on the increase. This calls for reliable and efficient solutions, especially when operation in challenging conditions is involved.”
Cutting-Edge Technology for the Future
“We are moving towards a society no longer reliant upon fossil fuels,” Soljama points out. “However, this transition is going to take some time. This means that oil and gas are going to maintain their position as dominant energy sources for quite some time. In the future, more and more operations are going take place in the Arctic.”
Which brings us to another exciting feature of Azipod. Equipped with an Azipod unit, a ship may enter arctic areas without the aid of an icebreaker.
How is that even possible?
The answer is little short of astounding: Azipod enables the ship itself to function as an ice-breaker. When needed, the ship can turn around and operate in reverse, using the propellers to break out the ice ahead. When it comes to operating in arctic conditions, then, Azipod is priceless.
So, what else have the people at ABB Marine and Cranes been up to recently? What are the future trends in the marine industry that we can look forward to?
“ABB is working on several things at the moment,” Soljama reveals. “Remote monitoring and troubleshooting is something that can help further decrease a vessel’s operation costs. Zero-emission port call is another point of focus. Owing to tightening regulations, it is becoming increasingly important to reduce the emissions generated during a port call, especially inside urban areas. We already have the technology to make this a reality.”
“In addition, we are confident to say that our on-board DC grid is going to be a game-changer. Tests have already verified that with ABB’s DC grid, a vessel’s fuel consumption can be reduced by as much as 27%.”
It is clear that the worldwide marine industry is going to have to take a giant leap towards the next level of efficiency and environmental awareness. Based on their past achievements and current developments, ABB looks like a good candidate for taking the lead.
Text and image by Industrial PRIME.
tel. +358 45136 3532