A year at the helm of the superyacht Artefact

A year at the helm of the superyacht Artefact

As the superyacht MY Artefact celebrates its first year in operation, Captain Aaron Clark shares his experiences of the groundbreaking environmentally conscious superyacht and its ABB power and propulsion technology.

What requirements were specified in MY Artefact’s design?

Right from the start, Artefact was envisioned as a superyacht that would be distinguished by smooth, silent and stable operations, with electric drive technology at its heart. The owner wanted to build a platform for innovation and enhanced performance, reliability and comfort but also for minimized fuel consumption and emissions. Electrical systems and digital power management made it possible to reposition the engine room and drive train to achieve maximum stability and performance. Furthermore, the combination of electric motors, DC variable-speed generators, DC bus and batteries improve fuel efficiency and sustainability when compared with a conventional setup. The owner was also clear at the outset that the yacht should be able to stay on station without using the anchor, a dynamic positioning requirement that demanded azimuthing pods.

The owner’s desire to minimize emissions was reflected by Artefact becoming the first superyacht to conform to Tier III emissions standards. It can even travel short distances emissions-free, running on batteries alone. In addition, due to its Azipod® propulsion, Artefact’s dynamic positioning capabilities mean that there is no need to drop anchor, which is a vital gain in sensitive marine ecosystems.

Captain Aaron Clark at the ABB Marine Academy in Helsinki, Finland
Captain Aaron Clark at the ABB Marine Academy in Helsinki, Finland

How is the integrated power and propulsion system on board Artefact different from what you have referred to as a “conventional setup”?

With ABB’s system, I have different modes available to take on the maneuvering task at hand, allowing me to maintain consistent control of the vessel while ensuring the best possible guest experience. This is what gives the ABB system its operational edge. We take full advantage of the precise hull positioning to offer spectacular views through Artefact’s expansive floor-to-ceiling windows and to minimize wind during outdoor dining and lounging.

Artefact has an electric drive technology at its heart
Artefact has an electric drive technology at its heart

Is there anything else about the power and propulsion setup on board that has caught your attention?

Artefact is equipped with ABB’s Onboard DC Grid™ power distribution system. Technically we talk about DC bus and enabling the use of multiple variable-speed DC generators; in practice that means greater efficiency and the ability allow surplus energy to be stored in banks of batteries. This eliminates the need for load banks, which are a feature of the fixed frequency AC generators traditionally used on yachts, which waste energy as they dissipate the excess power produced. ABB’s advanced DC bus digital power-management system allows Artefact to fully integrate multiple sources of power from solar cells, variable-speed DC generators and lithium batteries. It is also ready to accommodate fuel cells when the time comes. Effectively, the DC bus future-proofs the vessel.

On top of the energy storage benefits that include short-term silent, emissions-free operations, the large battery bank ensures an uninterruptible power supply. As well as preventing blackouts and brownouts and protecting equipment, and the comfort of crew and guests, this secures instantaneous maneuvering power should a generator experience an issue.

The bridge remote control system has also proven to be highly flexible and responsive, offering great reliability and precision. Being able to bring the vessel to a stop and hold position is a real asset where versatility is concerned and instills additional confidence in vessel handling.

Moreover, the flexibility to use only one generator set to power the hotel load and both Azipod® propulsors at cruising speed has led to significant fuel savings and emissions reductions.

With MY Artefact now having been in operation for one year, what are your initial thoughts on its performance?

At first, I had to get to grips with the operational parameter changes and versatility of the vessel as compared with a conventional superyacht, but once I’d grown accustomed to Artefact, the benefits of the ABB system became clear. Performance has been extremely reliable, and as Captain I have full confidence in ABB’s setup.

The flexibility and technical advantages of Artefact’s advanced DC bus architecture combined with ABB’s Azipod® propulsion and dynamic positioning technology have significantly improved performance, efficiency and passenger comfort while minimizing environmental impact – exactly what was expected of them and more.

Artefact is the first superyacht to conform to Tier III emissions standards
Artefact is the first superyacht to conform to Tier III emissions standards

What would you say have been the most noticeable changes for guests on board?

The first thing guests notice is Artefact’s ultra-smooth and quiet electric operation; they are sometimes surprised to learn that the yacht has already started moving. As guests spend more time on board, they come to appreciate the benefits of directional stability in maintaining the best views and shielding from wind on deck. Being able to position Artefact independent of wave, current and wind interaction using dynamic positioning has minimized roll and pitch for increased comfort. The ability to stop anywhere and at any time without needing to drop anchor has also increased impromptu opportunities to enhance guest experiences with the most spectacular views.

Why was Nobiskrug selected as shipbuilder?

The Artefact project was extremely challenging technically, and a strong in-house engineering and manufacturing team was needed to project manage the construction of such a complex and cutting-edge hybrid-electric yacht. Nobiskrug was not only the right choice, but one of very few yacht builders able to realize the owner’s vision without compromise. Artefact is the result of what I see as an extraordinary collaboration: the perfect marriage of art and science, combining groundbreaking architectural design with innovative engineering.

Why was ABB chosen as technology partner?

Electrification is a trend in all transportation sectors, and the increasing adoption of batteries and electric motor technology demands continuous development, investment and support. Artefact will travel the world, and ABB’s global reputation, size and experience in industrial automation, as well as its global marine service network, were crucial considerations – as was its vast experience in the commercial and passenger shipping industries. ABB had also undertaken extensive tests of a new marine DC bus system to drive its proven azimuthing pod propulsion technology for commercial shipping, and that gave us the confidence to adopt it for Artefact, in the process providing a launch pad for this new technology in the superyacht industry.

ABB was responsible for the design, supply, programming and commissioning of the complete propulsion system. Its expert engineers saw the project through to a successful conclusion, realizing the system design concept of the DC bus and ensuring that all of the componentry functioned faultlessly. The support and resources within the ABB group made this possible.

Did the ABB Azipod® propulsion training help with your preparations?

The training was essential. It allowed me to harness the full capabilities of Azipod® propulsion and its advantages not only for maneuvering but also for reducing fuel consumption and improving operating techniques to avoid unnecessary maintenance.

How have you benefited from ABB’s remote support?

ABB has helped with continuous monitoring, diagnostics and operational optimization via satellite link. Its global availability, expertise and logistics support allow us to operate around the world – even in remote locations – with complete confidence.

MY Artefact photos courtesy of Nobiskrug


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