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New technology may help old containerships save energy

New technology may help old containerships save energy
A Denmark-based research project involving Maersk Line has set an aim to reduce energy consumption of existing containerships by 10-20%, giving the potential for economic gains running to an amount in the double-digit million range per ship.

Maersk Line, Man Diesel & Turbo and The Technical University of Denmark's Mechanical Technology Department (DTU Mekanik) have pooled their efforts with a DKK5m ($872,000) investment from the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation to develop new technology and design new propellers for existing containerships.

The target group is 500 ships that were previously built when energy prices were low against the backdrop of fewer environmental requirements. At present, increasing oil prices have led to containerships sailing at slower speed in order to save fuel. However, slower speed has implications for the performance of the engine and wear and tear of components, resulting in neither engines nor propellers working optimally.

New ships can be designed with highly energy-efficient engine systems but there is no solution for the countless ships already sailing around the world.

“This project is unique in its holistic approach to propeller design and engine performance optimised for lower speeds. With ambitions of saving 10-20% in energy, the project is, at the same time, an excellent opportunity to strengthen our cooperation on innovation with one of our core suppliers,” said Niels Bruus, head of global optimisation and innovation at Maersk Line.

If the project is a success, the ambition is to test a prototype at sea in order to obtain further knowledge. Commercial and operational considerations permitting, this may be done on one of Maersk Line's ships.