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Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Belgian builder a model of diversification

Mon 16 Oct 2017 by Jamey Bergman

Belgian builder a model of diversification
Inside the ABC production facility, a crane lifts a 1.5-tonne ‘V’ engine block

Anglo-Belgian Corporation is having to respond to a tough market with flexibility and diversification, according to Jamey Bergmann

With a more than 100-year-old history firmly entwined with diesel engine development and relatively small market footprint, Anglo Belgian Corp (ABC) could be seen as an overlooked sibling among Europe’s competitive family of diesel engine manufacturing firms.  

In fact, a sales engineer showing off the company’s latest build projects and guiding Marine Propulsion through the on-site museum of ABC history hinted that he held a similar view. He said he wouldn’t mind having the same problem as ABC’s much bigger, older competitor, MAN Diesel & Turbo, which has been facing curtailed order volumes as a residual effect of the current, lengthy spell of depressed oil prices. The point, he suggested, was that MAN had an enviable percentage of the market, not that ABC has escaped a slowdown in orders for marine engines. 

That minor grumble aside, ABC as a company showcases two industry buzzwords – diversification and adaptability – as the guiding forces that have kept ABC ticking over quite well during tough economic times.

Marine Propulsion reported earlier this year on the company’s solid growth in 2016, and during our follow-up meet at the group’s relatively new (opened mid-2016) 2,800m2 production facility, ABC’s technical director Lieven Vervaeke said 2017’s order book has been filled and that he was reasonably happy with the way 2018’s order book was shaping up.

“The main thing is that we diversified from the start,” Mr Vervaeke said. “In the marine sector, it’s not so good. It’s struggling for each order. It’s very tough times. But on the other hand, we’re developing [the ability to] offer different solutions to our customers.”

“We have generator sets, we have railroads and then we have mobile crane, or let’s say diverse applications ... We have at the moment also a lot of work for the nuclear power plants. Right now, we are making 38 emergency gensets ... Walking around, you’ll see a lot of blue gensets; they’re all for EDF. So that’s very convenient, while there’s not so much work in the marine business.”

Mr Vervaeke reiterated that ABC’s DL36 range had expanded the company’s ability to serve different vessel types but pointed back to the EDF emergency generator contract as the company’s recent focal point and evidence of ABC’s responsive, adaptive capabilities.

“The DL has reached its goal. It’s clearly expanded our power range,” he said. “And we are even starting on the V, which will go to 210 MW and more. But we also … in the meantime … had a very big contract for EDF, which took more time than was foreseen. And again, it proves that we adapt the company according to the customer needs.”

Offering further proof of adaptability and responsiveness, Mr Vervaeke addressed the company’s approach to preparing customers for the upcoming IMO Tier III requirements.

He said “The question is: what are the solutions?

“In general, there are three solutions: You have dual-fuel applications, you have diesel or marine fuels with EGR and you have also marine fuels with SCR systems. We can say we have all three in our portfolio.”

Mr Vervaeke said “We have dual-fuel engines running at the moment, projects are starting up, like the dredger Minerva. With the DL, we have started testing in diesel, and we have our certificate for EGR for IMO Tier III. We are now working on the SCR system. And for the DZ system, we have that one already available in dual fuel and with SCR.”

Ultimately, Mr Vervaeke said determining the proper solution was up to the individual customer, and that the company strategy was to be prepared to deliver all options that are on the table.

“We’re trying always to be flexible and to follow the customer in his demands. So, in this way, we develop with the customer and we try to see … where do we have to head to.”

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