Japanese marque puts more resources into R&D

31 Oct 2011
Mitsubishi’s MET83MAG  hybrid turbocharger/generator made its debut this year

Mitsubishi’s MET83MAG hybrid turbocharger/generator made its debut this year

Complementing its production of low-speed machinery under licence from Wärtsilä, with whom it has a history of collaboration, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ sustained in-house development of the UE range ensures that European designs do not completely dominate the world market for large, two-stroke marine engines, writes David Tinsley.

Despite the Japanese company’s small share of the global business for large, low-speed diesel engines, sustained expenditure on R&D has resulted in continuing expansion and refinement of the UE range. While MHI’s own shipbuilding operations provide a ready market for UE technology, the availability of alternatives to MAN and Wärtsilä power continues to be well received across a broad swath of the shipbuilding industry in Japan and beyond. Uptake opportunities for the Japanese design series have been enhanced within the past two years through additions to the licensee network in Asia.

Product additions in recent years have included new 350mm and 400mm bore marine engines developed in conjunction with Wärtsilä, with the MHI models manufactured and sold by the company and its licensees under the UEC-LSE brand designation. The range has also been augmented by the all-MHI UEC45LSE engine, targeted at handysize bulkers. Reflecting the efficiency of the design, and its development through close consultation with its licensees and with leading Japanese builders of bulkers, the UEC45LSE quickly found a high degree of receptivity in the targeted newbuild sector.

Testament to the company’s determination to progress the UE business is the recent commitment to new engine research test facilities at the group‘s Kobe shipyard. The centrepiece of the investment will be a four-cylinder technology demonstrator, based on a 600mm-bore model of the electronically-controlled Eco series. The remit of the 4UE-X3 test engine is to verify systems and technologies aimed at ensuring compliance of UE low-speed diesels with forthcoming IMO Tier 3 limits governing NOx emissions.

The Kobe test facilities will also be employed for verification purposes in connection with the MHI initiative known as MEET (Mitsubishi marine energy & environmental technical solution system), to combine various MHI machinery products as a single package. Innovation expressed in this broader field to date has included the development of a hybrid turbocharger/generator, the MET83MAG, which made its seagoing debut this year, and the Mitsubishi energy recovery system (MERS) enabling waste heat recovery.

As the vital commercial complement to fresh technical endeavours, additional outlets for the Japanese low-speed two-stroke range have been established in ascendant shipbuilding markets, through the forging of new licensee agreements in China and Vietnam.

Under the pact with Vinashin, the first UE marine engine to have been produced in Vietnam was delivered last year by the group’s Bach Dang Diesel Engine Manufacturing Co and installed last year in a 22,500dwt bulk carrier constructed by Bach Dang Shipyard. The unit specified was a seven-cylinder model of the UEC45LA type, rated for 6,230kW at 158rpm.

Licensed production of MHI engines in China has been structured in accordance with different categories of engine power. Thus, the jointly-owned organisation Qingdao Qiyao Wärtsilä MHI Linshan Marine Diesel Company (QMD) is responsible for the larger engines in the UE range, while small- and medium-size units are the province of licensee Yichang Marine Diesel Engine Plant (YMD), one of the shareholders in YMD. The third Chinese company to take on UE models is Zhejiang Yungpu Heavy Machinery (YungPu), which has been licensed for the smaller UE low-speed designs.

YMD rolled-out its first UE diesel last year, in the shape of a 6UEC43LSII propulsion engine of 6,300kW specified for a German-owned 32,000dwt dry cargo vessel contracted from a yard in Fujian Province. At the end of March 2011, the agreement with YungPu saw the opening delivery of a UE engine, in the shape of a 6UEC33LSII unit for a newbuild in China.

YungPu has invested in a new factory capable of turning out 120 engines totalling about 1million bhp every year, and its contract with MHI covers two of the smallest series in the UE family, the UEC37LSII and UEC33LSII types. The Chinese enterprise is also to produce the 350mm bore S35MC-C9 and 400mm-bore S40MC-C9 models from MAN’s Danish two-stroke stable.

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