The Unified Bridge from Rolls-Royce has won the Norwegian Design Council 2015 award for design excellence. The awarding jury said: “In a conservative business with many class regulations, it is a challenging task to develop innovative solutions for user interfaces. This solution appears significantly better than competing solutions, and the quality of the interaction design is high. The user interface is based on modern navigational principles. The work surfaces are layered, which enable navigation on one surface, and with the touchscreen reduces cognitive load for operators.”
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It is now fifty years since the first Aquamaster azimuth thruster was delivered, the start of a development that has built in size and scope to become a major contributor to today’s Rolls-Royce propulsion product portfolio.
At that point the principle of the azimuth thruster was well known. John Ericsson, the innovator of many technologies in the 19th century, had patented a deck mounted outboard engine, other patents were issued in the US and UK in the 1870s and demonstrated as through hull units on a large scale. In World War II barges were equipped with over-the-stern thrusters with deck mounted engines. But there was not yet a convincing commercial demand. This emerged in the 1970s and has widened ever since.
Aquamaster thrusters began as a diversification for the Hollming shipyard in Rauma, Finland. The yard had originally been established to build vessels as war reparations to the Soviet Union, and was looking for something to even out market fluctuations. This first product was a steerable propeller with a deck-mounted diesel engine, installed on a hopper barge also devised by the yard, and largely made up from tractor and vehicle components. For the first few years production volumes were small , 2-10 units per year in sizes from 100-300hp. The market was there, but the main difficulty was sourcing components. The first exported units went to Germany, then Sweden specified units for propelling rod link ferries.
In England Yorkshire Dry Dock built many small coastal cargo vessels each with two 400hp units. As the expor t market grew, a good name was needed for the product, and it became known as the ’Aquamaster azimuth thruster’. Aquamaster is still a registered trade name within Rolls-Royce. By 1975 thrusters were offered in four sizes from 100 to 800hp and as well as Europe the market had expanded to include the US, Canada and Japan while sales volumes were growing rapidly and marketing companies and agencies were being set up around the world.
It was clear that the market was interested in bigger azimuth htrusters. The problem was in finding durable large bevel gears and other components to handle high powers. Special gears could be prohibitively expensive to buy, and other design constraints might pose a long term maintenance cost. So the R&D problem was to overcome these difficulties, at the same time trying to raise the efficiency of azimuth thrusters above the level of conventional propulsion systems.
A big step came at the beginning of the 1980s with the design of the first unit to be rated at over 1,000hp. This was the Aquamaster 1250. The Finnish oil comapny Neste ordered three tugs equipped with these thrusters and these vessels became a very good reference in the years that followed.
At the other end of the size range the first Aquamaster azimuth thrusters rated at more than 10,000hp were developed in the early 1990s, the initial application being a very demanding one. Ice-strengthened ARC 1 units. Two per ship were supplied to the multipurpose icebreakers Fennica and Nordica, providing both main propulsion and excellent manoeuvring in open water or thick ice. The two vessels are still operating in the same way, providing icebreaking services in the Baltic in winter and acting as offshore support vessels in summer.
The conventional thrusters have also grown in power, and in recent years have proved very attractive for propulsion and positioning of semi-submersible drilling rigs, drilling ships and many other vessel types. The Aquamaster business was restructured and enlarged several times in the years following its birth in the Hollming yard, most significantly when it was merged with the Rauma Repola deck machinery business. This was bought by Vickers plc in 1995 and combined with Swedish Kamewa. From 2000 the thruster and deck machinery product lines have been integrated with products from other origins and further developed to provide today’s comprehensive range of Rolls-Royce thrusters.
Full article - Celebrating 50 years of azimuth thrusters
Rolls-Royce azimuth thruster range
When the 2005 built platform supply vessel Bourbon Topaz docked in the Orskov Yard in Frederikshaven, Denmark during January this year for the overhaul of the four thrusters that propel the vessel, replacement units from the Rolls-Royce Thruster Support Pool were already waiting on the dockside.
On this occasion, due to a delayed start three Rolls-Royce service engineers were present to perform the exchange, but the work would normally be completed with two engineers. The two main propulsion azimuth thrusters, 2,500kW Azipull 120 units with CP propellers, the swing-up TCNS 73 azimuth thruster and the TT2200 tunnel thruster were removed and exchanged with replacement units over an eight day period. The vessel was then returned to operations.
“A conventional well-planned multiple-thruster overhaul at the yard would take around 21 days, but using Thruster Support Pool units really speeded everything up and ensured there were no surprises or delays due to missing or incorrect parts. It was also complete in the agreed time,” said Terje Fjelle of Bourbon Offshore Norway.
The removed units were returned to the Rolls-Royce centre for overhaul and testing, and then returned to the Support Pool.
“We now have a broad range of units in the Support Pool, so with appropriate planning we can deliver similar time savings for other shipowners at a fixed price, which helps with budget planning and ensures the time in drydock is minimised,” says Geir Oscar Løseth, General Sales Support Manager - Ulsteinvik, Norway.
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