Motor conquers steam

22 Apr 2013
Britain’s largest – a H&W-B&W engine of 21,000bhp

Britain’s largest – a H&W-B&W engine of 21,000bhp

Large and powerful engines continued to excite our predecessors at The Motor Ship, the April 1963 issue of which led with an item about large tanker propulsion.

It noted that a further contract had been signed for a 100,000dwt tanker, this order being from Bergesen for a ship to be built by Hitachi in Japan and powered by a B&W 12-cylinder 84cm bore engine. Previous ships of this size had opted for 10-cylinder engines. The 12-cylinder option brought the possibility of power outputs of 27,600bhp to this sector, right up to the level of the most powerful steam turbine ships of the time.

Not all tanker deliveries were of such a size, however. Mention was made of the completion of a 52,100dwt vessel in Germany that, despite its technical interest, had gone largely unnoticed. The ship was built at the Schleiker yard in Hamburg, and when that yard ceased operation (yet another familiar story) it was completed by Blohm & Voss. The Sinclair Venezuela was notable for being powered by four medium speed SEMT-Pielstick engines, arranged in pairs, with each pair driving a Kamewa CP propeller. With this propulsion configuration, and a high degree of automation and remote control, the ship was described as “one of the most advanced motor vessels to be built since the War.”

Japanese shipbuilding continued its sharp upward trend, with a report that the country’s export target of 1million gt for 1962-63 had been exceeded by more than 50%. As at February, with nearly two months remaining, the official shipbuilding export order book stood at 1.4million gt; since then the 100,000dwt tanker mentioned above and several other large vessels had been contracted, and it was known that other orders were in the pipeline. The success was attributed to competitive pricing, the existence of trade agreements and the availability of favourable credit facilities. The report concluded that “there are grounds for wondering how long the financial aid given to Japanese shipbuilding can continue on its present basis.”

The large engine theme continued with an article about the largest British-built marine diesel, a 21,000bhp 10-cylinder B&W poppet-vale unit built by Harland & Wolff. It was destined for an 80,000dwt tanker being built at Thompson in Sunderland for Fred Olsen. But the most interesting feature was the fact that the engine was fitted with a special arrangement for starting and manoeuvring the engine from the ship’s bridge. Remote control of reversing and fuel regulation was enabled by a pair of hydraulic cylinders, and a system of interlocking air valves. A system of lights and switches indicated whether control was from the bridge or on the engine, but the intervention of an engineer in the engine room was still needed in order to swing out the reversing and fuel regulating handles and connect the levers to the hydraulic cylinders.

The quest to improve the operational economy of large engines also continued. A report from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Yokohama shipyard suggested that recent MAN engines built at the yard were attaining up to 5,600 operating hours between overhauls, with low levels of liner and piston ring wear. The original specification for this engine type running on heavy fuel called for 2,500h service intervals, and this had successfully been more than doubled. With over 40,000h claimed as possible for large low speed engines with modern lubrication technology things have obviously advanced over the years.

Finally, five Norwegian companies – Bergen, Brunvoll, De Forenede, Hjelset and Volda – had jointly developed the Normo diesel engine, a four-stroke unit of 625bhp to 1,080bhp at 750/900rpm in six or eight cylinder versions. It was of fabricated construction, and developed from a Bergen design.