Azipod® propulsion ticks all the boxes in the growing retrofit market

Azipod® propulsion ticks all the boxes in the growing retrofit market

ABB’s market leading Azipod® electric propulsion system has become a commercially attractive retrofit option for existing vessels as shipowners seek ways to comply with new emissions regulations.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) introduced its new EEXI and CII regulations at the start of this year with the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 2008 baseline.

The new rules apply to all cargo, Ro-Pax and cruise vessels over 5,000 GT and include an annual emissions ratings system that will get increasingly stricter year-on-year. Many vessels across different classes will struggle to meet the increasingly tighter regulations.

In addition, poor CII emissions ratings for ships will likely have adverse effects for vessel operators as charterers and financiers will favour more sustainable vessels. Hence the regulation will serve to strengthen the green economy across all aspects of the industry.

Utilizing a hull that is still workable could add a further 10 to 20 years to a ship’s lifetime.

Regeneration game

These changes have sparked a surge of inquiries from shipowners looking at ABB Azipod® electric propulsion as a potential cost-effective retrofitting solution to keep aging ships on the right side of compliance and to extend their lifespan.

“We have seen a rapid increase since the turn of the year in the number of inquiries for retrofits using our Azipod® propulsion system,” says Toni Roiha, Global Sales Manager, Marine Propulsion Services, ABB Marine & Ports. “There have been more inquiries in the first couple of months of this year than in the whole of last year.”


“There are plenty of vessels out there that could benefit from some kind of retrofit,” he adds. “Utilizing a hull that is still workable could add a further 10 to 20 years to a ship’s lifetime. There is a lot of potential.”

Jumping the queue

Shipyards have a long backlog of newbuilding projects, so retrofitting an older vessel with a new propulsion system is a much quicker solution than having to wait for a production slot for a new ship.

“There is a long wait for new ships, so more and more operators are looking to find other ways for their fleet to meet the new regulations,” says Roiha.

This jump in the interest towards ABB’s services is also based on the long track record Azipod® propulsion has in the newbuild segment, where the system has delivered unparalleled efficiency, reliability and sustainability over 30 years. In total, ABB has sold more than 700 Azipod® units.

Azipod® propulsion improves operating efficiency, boosting a ship’s hydrodynamic performance and cutting fuel consumption by up to 20 percent when compared with a traditional shaftline setup. In addition to improved maneuverability, vessels featuring Azipod® propulsion benefit from reduced noise and vibrations for greater passenger and crew comfort.

The simple and flexible structure of the Azipod® units allows optimized positioning of the propeller according to a ship’s hull shape. Adjustable strut height of the underwater propulsion module allows using the best possible propeller diameter without a head box on the ship’s hull and large tilting angles of the Azipod® units in both longitudinal and transversal direction. This enables locating the Azipod® units to undisturbed wake field, i.e., water flow.

The flexibility of the electric propulsion system gives ship designers more freedom as the hull shape, especially the skeg, can be designed based on hydrodynamical evaluation without the dimensional restrictions of a long, traditional shaftline. The propeller positioning and the hull form are always designed together with the shipyard or design offices.

Additionally, the 360-degree directable thrust of the Azipod® propulsion units eliminates the need of stern tunnel thrusters, leading to more optimized hull shape and less hydrodynamic drag. Space saved by locating the motor outside the ship allows for more flexible design and frees up space for cabins, cargo or other features.

It is no wonder ship owners are now reviewing the potential for Azipod® propulsion as a retrofit solution when they are drawing up investment plans on how to modernize.

We have seen a rapid increase since the turn of the year in the number of inquiries for retrofits using our Azipod® propulsion system.

Single point of contact

ABB’s focus is to provide a one-stop shop for Azipod® propulsion retrofitting projects, handling everything from start to finish to make the process as smooth as possible for customers. The service covers all stages of a retrofit, from assessing whether a vessel is suitable, to the full design and installation phase, and then monitoring the units once in operation for maximum efficiency. Having a single point of contact saves time and money.

Each Azipod® system retrofit unit is made in the same ABB factories as the newbuild systems and has the same components. However, each retrofit takes on its own unique profile and design, depending on the dynamics of the ship’s hull.


ABB is ideally placed to assess each project by working together with customer and shipyard teams. Not every ship has a suitable hull to accommodate a retrofit, but ABB's team seeks to identify any potential.

“We collaborate with the customers so that we are able to find a solution that is easy to fit in and can improve value for them,” says Roiha. “We always do a design review with them. Our naval architects and experts on hydrodynamics work to find the most suitable Azipod® propulsion model, so customers can see an increase in avoided emissions and capital savings from using less fuel.”

At your service

The Azipod® propulsion system's high level of reliability and ease of access for maintenance are common themes across a wide range of vessel types. A further key benefit from getting an Azipod® system retrofit is each new customer will gain access to ABB Marine & Ports global service network. ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations Centers around the world provide 24/7 support ensuring dedicated expertise and fast response times.

“We also provide comprehensive condition monitoring, so we can see what is happening in the units in real time when the vessel is in operation,” says Roiha. “We can plan for any maintenance with the operators, so that it matches their business needs.”

“It doesn’t matter if a customer is operating in the Pacific or Arctic or even going all the way to the North Pole or the other direction, we are at your service.”



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