Nuclear and fuel cell alternatives foreseen

13 Jun 2014
‘Viking I’ was in many ways the forerunner of the current ro-pax ship

‘Viking I’ was in many ways the forerunner of the current ro-pax ship

Such is today’s focus on alternative fuels that it seemed slightly odd to see that the same subject was a hot topic back in 1964.

The June 1964 issue of The Motor Ship began with a leading article about nuclear power, then on the next page we found a news item about fuel cell development.

Official British proposals for nuclear power for ships were described as a ‘whitewash’, while fuel cells were received in a considerably kinder vein, despite the maximum power available at the time being only 25kW, though 200kW versions were expected within two years.

But conservatism and tradition continued to rear their heads on the letters page, an occasional feature in the ‘old’ pages. Two letters sprang to the defence of the steam turbine, fuel consumption claims for which had been demolished in the May issue leading article. The then editor, W. Wilson, felt it necessary to remind readers that The Motor Ship had been founded by A.P. Chalkley 44 years previously to further the case for diesel propulsion of ships, and continued that policy (as, of course, it still does, while believing strongly in other fuels such as gas). And neither, said Mr Wilson, was the magazine subsidised by diesel engine licensors, as one reader suggested.

The main ship description concerned what was described as “probably the most advanced motor ship of her time” – the East Asiatic Co’s 10,273dwt refrigerated cargo ship Andorra. She earned tis epithet through featuring B&W machinery that was automated to such an extent that it was considered possible to dispense entirely with engine room watchkeeping officers at night. Control of the engines and propulsion machinery was left entirely to the bridge, although during the day engineer officers would be on hand to carry out maintenance. The only time an engineer would be required on watch would be when sailing in restricted waters. Part of this approach was possible by employing the largest CP propeller fitted to any ship, a 5.6m diameter Kamewa unit weighing 23 tons. The 159m ship was powered by an 8-cylinder B&W engine rated 12,000bhp at 115rpm.

Staying with B&W, the issue reported on test bed trials of the first 12-cylinder large-bore engine, built by Hitachi in Japan, and which attained 30,360bhp at 110% load. In normal operation, the 840mm-bore unit would be rated 27,600bhp MCR at 114rpm. It was destined to power a 96,500dwt tanker. It, too, was designed for remote control, but from an insulated, air-conditioned control compartment in the machinery space rather than from the bridge.

Another comprehensive ship description examined the Viking I, which in ,many ways was a prototype for a type of ro-pax ship still current in today’s market. First of a pair built for the Norwegian Thoresen company, at the Kaldnes shipyard in Tonsberg to a design by Knud E Hansen of Denmark, Viking I was intended to operate between Southampton and Cherbourg/Le Havre. The ship’s most novel feature, for the time, was the ‘straight through’ loading and unloading arrangement for vehicles, with both bow and stern doors and ramps. The 99m ship could carry 800 passengers and about 150 cars and was powered by a pair of V12-cylinder four-stroke Pielstick engines, each rated 5,500bhp at 475rpm, and each turning a Kamewa CP propeller.

Another feature from June 1964 that strikes a chord today was an article on cylinder lubrication of diesel engines operating on heavy fuel – though no mention of cold corrosion. Instead, oils needed to be able to withstand high temperatures without creating sludge or deposits, though needed to rapidly neutralise sulphuric acid produced by the high sulphur content in fuel oils.