Memorable 2012: 100th Anniversary of MV SELANDIA

By Peter Pospiech at December 27, 2012 08:00
Filed Under: drive systems, General, Industry Events, MAN Diesel&Turbo

German genius and Danish resourcefulness deliver world’s first ocean-going, diesel-powered vessel and create template for modern shipping

Research turned to commercial success when the Danish founder of the East Asiatic Company saw beyond the scepticism of the day and placed an order for a diesel-powered bulk carrier in 1910. For Burmeister & Wain of Copenhagen, it was the justification for nearly 20 years of development work labelled by some in the industry as ill-advised due to the huge effort and capital expense being put into a vision that many others had failed to realize. Based on the original development of German engineer Rudolf Diesel, it was Danish civil engineer Ivar Knudsen who recognized the commercial potential of the engine and took it to Burmeister & Wain. 

The new invention was capable of using about 34 per cent of the calorific value of its fuel where steam engines of the day used about 15 per cent and gas engines about 23 per cent. 

The cargo and passenger vessel SELANDIA, commissioned in 1912 by the Copenhagen-based East Asiatic Company (EAC), is generally considered to have been the first oceangoing motor vessel. Though the SELANDIA was not, in fact, the first diesel-powered seagoing vessel, but she set the pace for large marine diesel engines and went down in history due to her size and operational reach. With a length of 112m, loading capacity of 7,400 tonnes and gross tonnage of 4,964, the SELANDIA was about five times bigger than the VULCANUS (1,180 tonnes and 2,345 gt, build 1910 in Holland for Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co.Ltd.) in terms of displacement and had four times the tonnage. 

The engine output of 2 x 1,250 hp was also approximately five times higher than the power of the VULCANUS. The SELANDIA was built by the shipyard and engineering works Burmeister & Wain (B&W), now MAN Diesel&Turbo, and marked the beginning of a new era in navigation. She was propelled by two sets of B&W eight-cylinder, four-stroke diesel engines  –  each  working  on  one propeller, bringing the total power to 2,500 hp. B&W guaranteed a specifc fuel consumption of 175 grams of oil with 10,000 kcal/kg per hp-hr for this particular engine type, which had already proven itself in several applications as a stationary engine with four cylinders and 600 hp. In  contrast  to  conventional  steamers,  there  was  no funnel;  instead,  there  were  hidden  exhaust  ports  at the aft mast. 

Port side engine of SELANDIA, supplying 1,250 hp 

View into SELANDIA's engine room

Images: Courtesy of MAN Diesel&Turbo and PPM archive

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