Azipod® propulsion captured a strong position in the marine and offshore markets thanks in large part to the advantages of enhanced maneuverability provided by precise speed and torque control, and full thrust in all directions.
As with all Azipod® installations, podded propulsion on vessels servicing the energy industries requires considerably less space inside the vessel than competing mechanical systems, yielding greater flexibility to optimize vessel design. In addition, optimized installation of thrusters working with a pulling or pushing propeller increases the hydrodynamic efficiency of the vessel and reduces noise and vibrations. Connecting the propeller directly to the propulsion motor eliminates gears and other auxiliary equipment, meaning reduced maintenance costs and less down time due to faults in these systems.
Stepping up offshore
To better meet emerging offshore requirements, a new, compact series of Azipod® units was developed in the late 1990s, with the first C-series order placed in 2001. The offshore supply vessel Normand Rover became the first offshore vessel to be equipped with the Compact Azipod® C propulsion systems, with the two 2.3MW units installed at Aker Yards Søviknes for Solstad Offshore.
Successful adoption of the new series continued, with Santa Fe International Corp opting for ABB’s electric propulsion systems and power plants for two new semi-submersible drilling rigs, delivered in late 2003. ABB’s scope in each rig included eight Compact Azipod® podded propulsion units with a total output of 25,6 MW.
The platform supply vessel Viking Avant, equipped with two 3MW Azipod® C-series units, was delivered in 2004 to owner Eidesvik, built at the Aker Langsten shipyard. The innovative vessel was awarded ship of the year by Skipsrevyen in 2004.
Later C-series installations came on the Sevan 300 Semi-Sub Accommodation rigs Arendal Spirit and Stavanger Spirit. Featuring six 4.4 MW Azipod® CZ thrusters, the vessels were delivered in late 2015 and early 2016 to owners Teekay and Logitel Offshore, built at the COSCO yard in China.
In order to ensure smooth delivery of both full-size and compact Azipod® units, a new factory dedicated to production of the C-series was constructed in Shanghai in 2011. The D-series was introduced in 2015, primarily to meet demand in the offshore segment, receiving the ‘Innovation of the Year 2015’ award at Electric and Hybrid Marine Expo in Amsterdam.
SeaLoader 1 was the first offshore vessel to be equipped with the Compact Azipod® D propulsion system, delivered in 2017 to owner is CeFront Technology AS, and built in the COSCO yard in China.
Later came orders with the pioneering industrial builder Arne Smedal and Sevan Marine. The project started with three accommodation rigs with a total of 16 Azipod® units, and continued with two cargo transfer vessels, with ABB taking part in the design phase in close collaboration with the owners.
Looking ahead: keeping pace with offshore renewables
Offshore wind farms are often located in coastal waters, where cleaner operations thanks to reduced emissions from Azipod® propulsion can provide benefits to local environments. And as installations move further offshore, the flexibility and performance advantages of Azipod® thrusters can help expand operational windows, improving overall efficiency and reducing power consumption to, from and on the site.
The first contract for Azipod® propulsion on a wind turbine installation vessel came in 2013 when Swire Pacific Offshore took delivery of Pacific Orca and Pacific Osprey, at the time the world's largest wind turbine installation vessels. Built by Samsung Heavy Industries for the Danish utility company DONG Energy, now Ørstad, the vessels featured four 3.4 MW Azipod® C units.
In another milestone, the cable-laying vessel NKT Victoria was delivered to owner NKT AS in 2017 from the Kleven Verft shipyard. Three 1.9 MW Azipod® C propulsion units help provide the vessel with the highest class of dynamic positioning (DP3). Considered the world’s most advanced cable-laying vessel on its delivery, NKT Victoria also featured ABB’s award-winning power distribution system Onboard DC Grid™, as well as the complete integrated automation system and an energy storage system that helped cut fuel consumption by 27 percent. NKT Victoria was named Skipsrevyen Ship of the Year in 2017.
Fully electric and connected, robust Azipod® technology is a key enabler of future highly automated and autonomous solutions as well. Having propelled the offshore industry into a new era of efficiency, Azipod® propulsion is poised to support offshore energy in its next move, into a more sustainable future.