Rolling on the waves

For nearly a century the name Rolls-Royce has been associated with world-beating engine technology, not least through its iconic Merlin model that became a workhorse for the Allied aircraft fleet during World War Two and through automobiles that have became a symbol for luxury. Its involvement with the maritime sector can be traced back to 1938 when the Merlin was converted for marine applications for the Royal Navy or, through the 1999 acquisition of Swedish group Vickers Ulstein Marine Systems, all the way back to 1871 when its Scottish marine engineering subsidiary Brown Brothers was established. Over decades, Rolls Royce’s gas turbine engines have become widely respected throughout the maritime sector for their quality, reliability and technological steps forward.

Today, Rolls-Royce Marine offers products and services across the offshore, merchant, naval and fishing sectors as well as to the UK’s nuclear submarine programme. In all, the company has more than 2000 clients and equipment installed on more than 30,000 vessels operating worldwide. Its products and services are divided into ten core types: automation and control, bearings and seals, electrical power systems, deck machinery solutions, engines, propulsion units, shiplifts and transfer systems, reduction gears, stabilisation and manoeuvring mechanisms, and ship design.

One of the company’s most recently notable successes – and one which combines several of its disciplines – has been the introduction of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered Environship concept, which is an approach to short sea vessel design that puts environmental and economic considerations at the forefront. Oddbjørn Eliassen, the company’s president for the merchant sector, talks further about what Environship is and what it offers the user: “The concept is based on module thinking. We have divided the ship in three parts: the front section, mid section and aft section. Together with Marintek in Norway, the world-leading research institute for hydrodynamics, we have calculated, simulated and tested out different hull forms for each section.

“The new bow form is patented and gives a reduced fuel consumption of eight to ten per cent compared with existing designs whilst the aft section is equipped with a Promas CPP propulsion system that gives another six per cent reduction in fuel consumption. This, in combination with our lean burn gas engines gives the design a total of 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG). The new bow form has been tested extensively in tank simulators whilst efficiency gains of the Promas have been measured on a ship in operation, so we are pretty sure that the Environship can achieve the improvements I have described.”

Environship received the Next Generation Ship Award at this year’s NorShipping exhibition in recognition of its environmental and engineering achievements, and for being a concept that shows the most promising practical steps forward in vessel design. This award led directly to the first two Environship orders by Norwegian short sea shipping company Nor Lines. Two 112-metre, 5000 deadweight tonne (DWT) Rolls-Royce NVC 405s are currently being constructed at the Tsuji Heavy Industries yard in China and are expected to enter service in October 2013, when they will begin operations along Norway’s west coast.

Environship is also available for adaptation, as illustrated through the recently formulated agreement with Shanghai, China, based firm Bestway Engineering. The two companies signed a collaboration agreement in November 2010 specifically to develop innovative and eco-friendly vessels; recently they unveiled a range of new energy efficient ship designs, the first to emerge from the companies’ Joint Project Team. Rolls-Royce has spent more than four decades supporting the maritime culture in China, including the establishment of its own 6000 square metres manufacturing facility in Shanghai, and this collaboration has served to strengthen the capabilities of both companies.

As a company recognised for innovation and staying one step ahead, it’s no surprise that even Rolls-Royce’s standard range offer greater benefits than its competitors. Oddbjørn elaborates on the advantages to one of the company’s most popular products: “We are the only supplier in the world who can deliver pure lean burn gas engines that are as fast as a diesel engine when it comes to load response: from eight to 98 per cent load within 15 seconds, whereas dual-fuel engines take more than two minutes. This means a dual-fuel engine needs to operate on diesel within the harbour. Our lean burn gas engines also use 7.7 per cent less gas at 100 per cent load than dual-fuels and 16.1 per cent less gas at half load. This gives an average of ten to 12 per cent less gas consumption. Our engine has an efficiency of 50.3 per cent compared to a diesel engine of 45 to 46 per cent, whilst also offering a 22 to 25 per cent reduction in CO2 and methane GHGs.”

This type of research and development (R&D) ukdoes not come cheaply. The Marine division of Rolls-Royce invests annually approximately £800 million to develop and test new products such as Environship; or Promas Light, a new model in the Promas line of integrated rudder-propeller systems that has achieved ten to 15 per cent lower fuel consumption for cruise vessels by integrating the propeller system with the rudder through a bulb. Five key areas of improved efficiency are considered during R&D: fuel, emissions, propulsion, hull and operational. Environship and Promas Light provide two excellent examples of this process.

Establishing itself as a crucial one-stop shop partner for its clients, Rolls-Royce pushes its capabilities further by offering total operational systems integration. In addition to the aforementioned engines and propeller-rudder systems it offers a wide selection of products ranging from steering gears and thrusters to deck cranes, onboard electrical networks and dynamic positioning systems, all of which can then be controlled through bridge automation systems that are delivered complete with Rolls-Royce operator chairs.

Rolls-Royce Marine services include a global support network, which provides technical and maintenance assistance to clients through regional Marine Services Centre in 35 countries throughout the world in the US, UK, Poland, South Korea, China, the Netherlands, Singapore, India and Norway. These locally based centres also act as training facilities to educate successive generations of engineers ukand technicians to Rolls-Royce level. For older equipment, the company offers its clients the opportunity to upgrade: with its extensive experience of vessel machinery a survey is undertaken to determine the best replacement for improving power efficiency and fuel consumption.

The recent acquisition of German company Tognum from private equity firm EQT IV further reinforces Rolls-Royce as a hub for all its maritime clients’ needs. The takeover, which began in November 2011, is being undertaken as a 50/50 joint venture with Daimler AG. “We are in the starting phase of this journey,” says Oddbjørn. “Not all of the formalities are finished yet but we expect that during the first half of next year everything will be settled. This will bring a new dimension into our business because we have never been part of the high-speed engine market. Tognum’s world-class products in this area, together with our own wide portfolio, will open up new segments in the naval, merchant, offshore and energy markets.”

As part of a wider scheme to strengthen its position in Germany, the purchase of Tognum has arrived on the back of another important purchase that saw it open a new Marine Service Centre in the Port of Hamburg. It will offer repair and overhaul services to the commercial, offshore and naval sectors, employing up to 70 people to work both on premises and in-situ throughout the River Elbe region. The facility will also specialise in the design and manufacture of tank-based stabilising and anti-heeling systems. This investment represents the latest in a string of regional facility upgrades Rolls-Royce is undertaking to present customers with an improved experience.

With this in mind, Oddbjørn discusses his outlook on the market at present: “From a turnover point of view, the last 18 months have been good. We have a three and a half year order backlog when the financial crisis began in October 2008 but the market has slowed down significantly since then. The offshore market is slowly picking up and the future looks promising, although the merchant market will likely suffer from overcapacity of vessels the next two to three years.”

This isn’t placing too many obstacles in the way of the company, however, because it already pursuing numerous lines of expansion. “We are of course looking at China where we have established the collaboration agreement on ship design,” Oddbjørn says. “We are also now looking at other collaboration agreements for manufacturing and services. Rolls-Royce also has a very strong position in the Brazilian market at present, particularly when it comes to our family of offshore vessels of the UT-type. The ever-increasing demand for local content in the area means that we have to establish ourselves further in the market. Looking forwards into the future, we are aiming to continue strengthening our position in our existing marine markets primarily through organic growth but also, as I’ve already outlined, through strategic acquisitions.”

First two orders for award winning Environship
Established important Chinese design agreement
Recently acquired high-speed engine manufacturer