Anglo Belgian Corporation (ABC) has been manufacturing diesel engines since 1912 when it was founded by a group of Belgian entrepreneurs, soon after the building of the first licensed Rudolf Diesel engine. With close links to Rudolf Diesel, the German inventor and engineer, the business developed as a manufacturer of this engine, which no longer depended on sparks for its ignition, but where ignition starts under the high temperature after compression of air in a combustion chamber.
Despite the reduced possibilities for sales and trading during the two world wars, ABC continued its activities. As the production level was low during these periods a lot of time was spent on research and development with the future in mind. A successor, based on the first DU engine-line, was designed soon after and named DX for the naturally aspirated version. Through cooling of the charge-air after the turbo compressor by means of an intercooler, power of the same engine could be doubled, compared to the naturally aspirated engine – this engine line was named DXC.
Since the 1980’s the company has designed and manufactured medium speed, four stroke diesel engines for marine, traction, power generation applications and turnkey power plants around the world. “In 1986 we joined the OGEPAR Group, a Belgian holding, established to manage a very diversified number of companies. Within the group there are a number of sister companies that are able to support our business and open our own expertise up into new fields, such as Focast whose specialist field is foundries. There is also a contracting and engineering consultancy company who are able to assist with activities such as electrification projects,” says Jean-Christophe van Acker, sales director.
After an injection of capital by OGEPAR, ABC successfully launched the new DZC engine line and a decade later decided to extend the product range with V12 and V16 engines with an output of up to 5000 HP. Continued innovations have made ABC one of the important manufacturers of diesel, HFO and dual-fueled medium speed engines, as well as generator sets for today’s global energy industry. The business remains committed to developing more efficient engines, which deliver more power and use less fuel while significantly reducing emissions.
A globally growing business employing 250 personnel, ABC’s engines are in use in over 120 countries, supported by factory-certified service technicians available all over the world. Although a strong and financially secure business, aided by the 1000 workforce strong OGEPAR Group the business was, to some extent still affected by the 2007 financial crisis, but through a spread of its interests the business was able to absorb some of the waves created, as Jean-Christophe says: “We are active in three segments; marine propulsion applications, railway traction and generating sets using a wide variety of fuels for various applications associated with heavy duty continuous use applications.” Propulsion applications represent in the region of 55 to 65 per cent of ABC’s production, with its engines complying with the regulations of a wide range of classification societies. “This gives our clients the confirmation that our engines are made with good craftsmanship to the highest quality standards.
“We operate in the medium speed niche of the market, so although we are a relatively small company in the wider picture, we are particularly large in the focus market,” he adds. The company’s interests in the marine, shipping and fishing markets were mostly affected by the crisis, but since 2012 the company has been investing and diversifying its customer base, increasing its involvement on international projects and also diversifying in terms of applications as it develops the locomotive business, new marine areas, oil and gas, and offshore.
Diversification into such markets could not have previously happened because the production capacity was limited. In 2012 the business introduced a new engine on its 100th anniversary, the DL36. Through co-operation with the State University of Ghent, ABC successfully developed the new and unique piece, already complying with the upcoming IMO-tier 3 emission limits in 2016. At present, the engine is undergoing its final test stages, for it will be commercially available within the next few months. With the leading international maritime trade fair, SMM Hamburg opening its doors in September 2014, ABC will be present, highlighting the development to potential customers.
The engine will up the power output from four to ten megawatts, providing scope for the business to target larger shipyards, bigger projects and bigger power plants. Alongside the increase in engine power, the business has also built a new factory from which it is able to increase the production capacity by more than double. “The investments have allowed us to be more aggressive internationally, developing new markets in the US and Asia and continue our activity in Africa. We have always been very active in Africa with mechanical engines, providing a very simple, very reliable and low maintenance product with a low life cycle cost,” points out Jean-Christophe.
Demand for the engines in such geographical areas is great, as skilled people are hard to find. As such, the user is able to undertake the maintenance of the engines themselves. A straightforward mechanical engine is also highly demanded in marine applications where repairs can be carried out without the use of a computer or software to check what is wrong, and the work can be undertaken whilst away from shore. There has already been a lot of interest in the new engine with customers waiting for it release. The ability to save space often comes at a premium and this, combined with the excitement around new developments has contributed to the early interest.
“In terms of our geographical business, we built a solid reputation within the European market, and we are currently looking at where we can take the next constructional development of other territories. The increase in our production capacity means we are in a position to seek distributors and agents worldwide, and this is an activity we are already actively undertaking. There are many countries in which we can aim to increase our market share, and in this niche market that could mean raising supply numbers up by just two engines each year,” explains Jean-Christophe. The business has a very strong reputation amongst builders and charterers of vessels and ABC’s are found in most tug boats of the Port of Antwerp.
“We are also supplying to many companies in the markets across the US, but most recently we have increased our supply to the Chinese markets,” says Jean-Christophe. Although many European customers now source much of the material from China, appointing Chinese shipyards to undertake vessel construction, it is often the case that a European, American or Japanese manufacturer for the engine is specified. “The engine is the heartbeat of the ship, and as a European manufacturer we are frequently contacted by Chinese shipyards looking to purchase our products as they aim to differentiate themselves with a higher quality engine,” he adds.
Of course it is not just being a European manufacturer that gives the business its strengths, as Jean-Christophe explains: “We are really focused on medium speed range engines, but as an engineering company we are flexible in taking some projects that are more difficult. All our engines are built and sold with an extensive warranty so we ensure that no corners are cut on the manufacturing side, to ensure that the end product is strong and reliable, even if it is a little more expensive to manufacture. We want our engineering to be focused on reliability and thinking from a customers’ perspective not from a profit or accounting perspective, and with this in mind we ensure that our decisions are not governed purely by financial reasoning.”
As the business moves towards the future, the company continues to develop the locomotive business but its current focus is on the release of the new range of engines to which it is looking forward to successfully introducing. Concluding, Jean-Christophe says: “The general state of health of the marine industry in Europe is very important to our business, but wherever our customers are they expect a certain level of service, and an engine which will last for 15 to 20 years, and we continue to deliver to these expectations.”
Anglo Belgian Corporation
Design and manufacturer of diesel engines
Over a century of experience
Imminent release of a more powerful engine