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Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Emissions-reduction has driven both engineering and emotions

Tue 13 Mar 2018 by Paul Gunton

Emissions-reduction has driven both engineering and emotions

Paul Gunton shoots the breeze about technologies that keep the air clean

This week I will salute the landmark contract we reported last Thursday (8 March) between Belgium’s Exmar and South Korea’s Hanjin Heavy Industries to build what are said to be the first LPG-fuelled vessels. They will be built at Hanjin’s Philippines yard for delivery in 2020 when they will be chartered to Norway’s Statoil.

That date, of course, coincides with the global sulphur cap coming into force and these ships will be LPG carriers able to tap into their cargo, so perhaps the news is not as surprising at it might be, but it nonetheless brings to commercial reality the latest development by MAN Diesel & Turbo in its dual-fuel engines.

In another first for gas – LNG, this time – our sister publication Passenger Ship Technology is planning an article in its next issue about two ferries under construction for Rederij Doeksen that will be completely LNG-fuelled – not dual-fuelled. Willem Barentsz and Willem de Vlamingh are being built by Strategic Marine in Vietnam and will operate between Harlingen and Terschelling in the Netherlands.

That news prompted me to reflect on how far the world has come in terms of emissions-reducing technology in the past few decades. Back in 1986, I invested in Walker Wingsail, when it installed its innovative aerofoils on a small bulker. Fortunately, I didn’t invest much, because I lost the lot when Walker Wingsail went bust a few years later.

Yet the day after we reported the Exmar contract, we carried a news item about a cruise ship concept that will use wind as its main source of power. More astonishing – to me, anyway – is that if the wind exceeds 15 knots the ship’s propellers will be allowed to freewheel and generate electrical power from the wake. I would like to see the figures on that but if this really is more than a marketing gimmick aimed at impressionable passengers, this sounds like quite an achievement.

We have come a long way in our emissions-reducing engineering. But we have also come a long way in our emissions-reducing emotions. Three decades ago, when I was wasting my money with John Walker, few took seriously the innovative technologies that he and others on the fringes were talking about. Now, alternative fuels, wind and solar energy, fuel cells – even wave power, which I first wrote about in the 1980s – are becoming increasingly significant.

Whether it has taken legislation to push us down this road, or whether legislation has only accelerated our journey in this direction, is a subject open for debate. What is clear is that we are on this road and we will not be turning back and I wonder how fuel and propulsion technology will change in the next 30 years. If you have any predictions to offer, email me at

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