Azipod® propulsion saves 18,000 tons of fuel for Chinese ferries over the course of 12 years

The first voyage of the Yantai-Dalian ferries in China 12 years ago marked ABB’s first Azipod® propulsion unit delivery for a vessel in China. Today, the Sinorail Bohai Train Ferry company reports significant fuel savings achieved with ABB’s technology.

Since the earliest days of China’s industrialization, all kinds of grand schemes have been proposed to connect the industrial hubs of Yantai and Dalian. Sometimes, however, straightforward solutions are the best, and in 2003 the go-ahead was given for the Bohai Train Ferry – featuring ABB’s Azipod® propulsion.

“At that time, ABB’s Azipod® propulsion was frequently specified for large cruise ships as operators recognized their additional maneuverability and fuel saving benefits, while our smaller units were dominant in offshore,” says Alf Kåre Adnanes, head of ABB Marine & Ports business in China . “The management at what would later become the Sinorail Bohai Train Ferry Co. Ltd. were incredibly forward-looking in their decision to adopt a different technology for their new vessels.”

The three ferries of the Bohai Train Ferry fleet complete six daily services between Dalian and Yantai trip. Each ferry can accommodate up to 50 railway freight cars, fifty 20-ton trucks, 25 passenger cars and 400 passengers. The sea crossing takes around six hours, whereas the equivalent journey by road around the coast via Tianjin is 10 times the distance and takes at least 15 hours to complete in clear traffic, and double that to avoid the tolls. By removing some of the 18 million tons of cargo that would otherwise be carried between the two cities by road, these ferries also reduce carbon emissions and local air pollution.

With the help of ABB’s Azipod® electric propulsion, these ferries were able to reduce fuel consumption by 25 percent compared to a conventional setup. This worked out as an annual saving of 1,500 tons of fuel and 30 tons of lubricant, adding up to 18,000 tons of fuel and 360 tons of lubricant over the course of 12 years.

Today, this can be seen as something of a market-specific environmental bonus, given Beijing’s eagerness to tackle air pollution and shrink China’s carbon footprint. Additionally, with the Bohai Bay established as a new Emission Control Area (ECA) in China, having more sustainable solutions that help meet strict environmental regulations becomes increasingly more vital.

The year-in, year-out green dividend comes into focus once more as the first Bohai Train Ferry heads towards the second round of general maintenance to be provided by the ABB China Service team. ABB normally carries out Azipod® system maintenance on a five-year cycle but has extended this period to six years to align drydocking to coincide with the scheduling of mandatory China Classification society inspections.

“This timetable would not align neatly with our standard five year service cycle and, left unaddressed, would result in the vessels being out of action longer than is strictly necessary. So, after consideration of the operating profile and the Azipod® units’ record for reliability in other installations, we decided to stretch the maintenance cycle by a calendar year,” says Adnanes.

Since the first installation over 25 years ago, Azipod® propulsion has saved approximately 700,000 tons of fuel in the cruise sector alone, while clocking up close to 15 million running hours at an impressive availability rate of 99.8 percent.

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