The Elias Johan and Bernt Oskar are two newly developed seiner vessels measuring 50.5m long and 12m wide. Developed by Vestværftet Aps, a Danish shipbuilder with shipyards in Denmark and Poland, the vessels are specifically developed to provide a greener method of maritime transport for the fishing industry, and will operate out of Norway.
Unlike traditional shipbuilding, developing hybrid or fully electric models requires significant differences in equipment and infrastructure. Smart Automation, a Norwegian expert in integrated automation and hybrid power systems for ship makers, specialises in this growing niche.
Most hybrid ships have two methods of propulsion, the most common use a combination of diesel fuel and electric batteries. Depending on the vessel, diesel direct drive can be used at high power, and diesel electric or pure electric can be used at lower power.
The common challenge of these systems is the space it requires on a vessel. In fact, to give you an idea of size, some recent retrofits of these systems are being installed inside large shipping containers for drop-in installation.
In a newly designed hybrid ship, reducing the footprint of the propulsion system is key to ensuring good ergonomics, as John Kåre Torkelsen, managing director of Smart Automation explains.
“Space is always an issue on shipping vessels, so it was key that our system choice did not have a negative impact on the room on board. For the Elias Johan and Bernt Oskar fishing vessels, we opted for a motor and generator that used a space-saving jacket cooling system, as opposed to a coil.”
A jacket cooling system, sometimes referred to as a flow generator, is a system that ensures there is consistent water flow across the motor surface to keep it cool.
The WGM20 jacket cooled motor from WEG — the equipment ultimately specified by Smart Automation — is specifically designed for minimum thermal dissipation and space saving.
The water jacket cooling system on the WGM20 motor consists of a water flow in a zigzag circuit throughout the frame. The cooling system has a degree of protection suitable for aggressive, reduced-space, or high-temperature environments — ideal for the unpredictable landscape of a fishing vessel.
Crucially, the thermal exchange of the motor does not depend on the environment and allows several torque combinations with motor speed.
However, space and cooling are not the only considerations when specifying a motor for a hybrid vessel. Crucially, the project required a motor that could also operate as a generator to provide the main source of electrical power.
Once in operation, the motor would actually only be used as an emergency take-me-home drive system, whereas the generator would be responsible for powering everything from lighting, HVAC and refrigeration, through to the navigational systems used to sail safely.
“From a design perspective, the WGM20 range has been engineered with longevity in mind,” explained Kristian Bugge Nikolaisen, Norwegian Business Development Manager at WEG Scandinavia. “For instance, all WGM20 motor accessories, such as space heaters, water leakage detector and the terminal box, are securely concealed within the main frame and therefore are better protected.
“The WGM20 motors have an impressive ability to perform in aggressive environments,” continued Bugge Nikolaisen. “In fact, for the marine industry, motors from this line can be supplied with specific certifications, including Lloyds, Bureau Veritas, ABS and DNV to ensure reliability.”
The motor specified for the projects were two 1500 kW models. However, the WGM20 line of motors can be supplied up to 2800 kW for a horizontal motor or 2000 kW for a vertical motor, available up to a 560 or 5100 (IEC) frame size respectively. The WGM20 line boasts a frequency of either 50 or 60 Hz and a potential voltage of up to 4,160 V depending on the motor’s size and application.
Importantly for installation on the Elias Johan and Bernt Oskar, the motors were supplied with IP55 and IP56 protection. This certification ensures the equipment is protected against high pressure water from any direction, dust ingress and immersion of between 15cm and one metre in depth.
In collaboration with the electric motor from WEG, both vessels use significant battery energy storage systems (BESS). This system stores energy from the motor when the vessel operates electrically, and will also charge when used in generator mode.
“Smart Automation has a long history of working with ship makers to deliver integrated automation, power management and power solutions on hybrid and all electric ship projects,” added Kåre Torkelsen. “WEG was contracted to provide its expertise and guidance on selecting a motor/generator that would bring this project together and ultimately bring these hybrid vessels to life.
“The environmental impact of the shipping industry demands new solutions, and to meet this challenge, Smart Automation work with shipbuilders and owners to make shipping greener. We would certainly lean on WEG’s expertise to supply power equipment for a project like this in future,” concluded Kåre Torkelsen.
Global demand for electric and hybrid shipping vessels is growing exponentially. In fact, a report by IDTechEx suggests there are already over 100 manufacturers of electric ships around the world, manufacturing for everything from leisure to fishing and cargo.
While a reduction in carbon emissions from the world’s shipping industry is welcome, the manufacturers of these vessels must lean on industry experts to supply the right technology. The right motors, generators and automation will ensure these are safe, powerful and importantly, clean.