Azipod Propulsion System of Choice for Two New Icebreakers
Propulsion pod pioneers ABB have won an order worth around US$25-million to supply its marine propulsion system, Azipod, and complete electric power plants for two new rescue and salvage icebreakers that are under construction at Nordic Yards GmbH in Germany.
Azipod Propelled Russian Icebreaker: Image courtesy of ABB
The original idea for the Azipod (Azimuthing Podded Drive) system was conceived a couple of decades ago in response to the Finnish Maritime Administration’s quest for ways to improve its icebreaker operations. Icebreakers must be capable of manoeuvring in such a way that they can break out of an ice channel in any direction in order to assist merchant ships using that channel. Investigations showed that a propulsion motor which could direct the thrust in any direction would be the ideal solution to this problem. The Azipod drive system that was subsequently developed provided the answer with its podded electric propulsion unit, freely steerable through 360 degrees, and the first pulling Azipod units were installed on board the icebreaker Röthelstein in 1995.
Features of the Azipod propulsion system are by now well-known, with widespread application in cruise ships, but to recap: The Azipod unit incorporates an electric (single or double-wound) AC motor that drives a fixed-pitch propeller directly via an extremely short shaft. The electric motor, located inside the pod is controlled by a frequency converter. Full torque is available from zero to nominal speed in either direction.
Icebreaker Azipod Units: Photo courtesy of ABB
The new breed of Azipod propulsion icebreakers, ordered by Russia’s State Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (SMRCC) will receive Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RMRS) Icebreaker 6 class notations. Their task will be to perform offshore oil and gas field rescue and oil-spill response operations in Arctic waters covered at times by ice of up to one meter thick. ABB’s scope of supply will include 3.5 megawatt (MW) Azipod VI units, main switchboards, drives, bow thrusters and generators. Total power per vessel will be 7 MW.
ABB say they have made a significant investment in Russia to support the country’s fast-growing offshore oil-and-gas activities in the Arctic. They now have 27 offices in Russia and five production sites, overseen by the head office in Moscow. The company has also reinforced its presence in Russia by establishing dedicated marine centres in Moscow and St. Petersburg, backed by specialised marine service teams in Murmansk and Sakhalin.
“Since ABB’s first delivery of Azipod technology for ice breakers in the 1990s, 60 units have been delivered for more than 30 ice-going vessels,” said Veli-Matti Reinikkala, head of ABB's Process Automation division. “On average, two out of three high ice-class vessels built today are fitted with ABB systems. This order sustains our reputation as a long-term and reliable partner in the Russian market.”