Hybrid shipping solutions!

All the shipping world is living the Ever Giver at the moment. We are not sure yet, what was happened. However, I don’t believe in history about the wind. Of course, the wind was determining the final position of the ship, but I have a strong feeling, that more things go wrong. Ever Giver has a MAN 11 cylinder’s slow-turning engine. There could be faults that could cost a slowdown or shutdown on the engine. Of course, there could be also a blackout, this we don’t know yet. All the logs are available onboard, but we will have to wait for final confirmation. However, if we will have 2 engines and 2 propellers, instead of 1, reliability will be much higher! Here come hybrid shipping solutions, sooner or later, will become a standard!

Introduction of elements

In parallel with the development of Diesel Engines, there were also growing other solutions in the propulsion of the vessels. The development of variable pitch propellers and shaft generators gives much more possibilities to made cost-saving solutions and they also introduce Hybrid shipping solutions in propulsion systems. But step by step… We just have finished a small introduction of the main components, which are used in hybrid systems, has to be done.

What is the pitch propeller?

A variable-pitch propeller or so-called controllable pitch propeller is a propeller with an adjustable axis of blades. Originally pitch propellers were developed for aviation solutions. However this technology was so beneficial in shipping, that was implemented at sea as well. With that kind of propeller is also equipped Ever Giver.

So what are the benefits of CPP? You can use it to run the ship in both directions. Even without changing the direction of rotation. Change of the angle of blades is changing thrust. So by the angle of blades can reduce the speed of the vessel with the same speed of the engine for maneuvring purposes.


Construction is more complicated, and more costly in compare to Fixed Pitch Propellers. Maintenance of equipment also have to by done.

In my opinion, in vessels which have to operate in narrow rivers and fjords, this is really beneficial solution! Especially, the range of speed that You can adjust is much wider with this solution.

What is the shaft generator?

What is the shaft generator?

About shaft generators, I have to prepare another post on the blog, because this subject is sooooooo big. To keep a long story short, I will explain the principles of working. At the shaft between the main engine (described here!), and propeller can be installed Generator. When the main engine is running, we can produce electrical energy at the same time. Simple and efficient. Can save some costs!

At modern shaft generators, there is also another possibility. From running auxiliary engines, so-called generators, power can be supply to shaft generators. By energy produced from generators, we run the shaft generator as an electrical motor. In that way, we rotate the propeller. This means that You can run a vessel without the main engine. This is very handy if You have a Fixed Pitch Propeller. Then maneuvring in the harbor can be done without the main engine. Most probably fuel can be saved by that operation.

Ok, after very quick explenation, time to back to main topic.

What are the hybrid solutions?

As You can read in the encyclopedia: Hybrid solutions are mixed of different solutions or systems, combined in one. Hybrid shipping solutions are non that old subject. The easiest hybrid solutions, which can increase the reliability and performance of the operation in shipping propulsion are the Shaft generator and the Controlled pitch propeller. By combine of these two, we can reduce the speed by the pitch of the propeller. In harbor for mooring the vessel, we can use a shaft generator to operate the propeller. Simply and efficient. But, not so common in use. We can connect also with each other different systems.

What kind of systems can combine?

All kinds of systems! The most important equipment in hybrid solutions is the gears. They allowed connecting more propulsion devices to one shaft. With the gear, we can connect for example main engine and electrical engine as a backup. As You can see in the picture below, that arrangement of the propulsion system gives us redundant possibilities to run the ship.

Diesel-electric in hybrid solutions

Diesel-electric systems are one of the most modern combined systems. They are present also in different combinations, with or without the shaft. Solutions with the shaft, in the picture below, will be preferable for the long-distance operational vessels. In this case, we don’t need to connect multiple devices to the gear. In that case, You use the gear to reduce torque at the generator. We can decide if at the moment we need full power to energize the ship, and run all generators or use just half of the power, and reduce the number of running generators. Saves in fuel are always welcome!

Diesel-electric solutions without the shaft, equipped with azipodes or gondolas, are really welcome at the offshore market. With gondolas and azipodes systems easily adapt to reach the DP3 standard. In comparison to standard solutions with the shaft. More about DP standards and their configuration will show on this blog in the future!

You can rotate Azipodes in the full range of 360 degrees. In that way, vessels operate easily in all directions. Additional stern thruster also helps to keep the positioning or course of the vessel.

I was thinking that the vessel will be hybrid like Toyota…

Actually Yes! Vessels are also hybrid in the same way as cars. There are vessels equipped with batteries! A good example is MS Roald Amundsen. This vessel is a hybrid with a diesel-electric system. Equipped with 2 azipodes located and 2 bow thrusters. 4 diesel engines are responsible for energized azipodes, stern thrusters, and … batteries! The time of operation at batteries is not so impressive, it is around 45 minutes, but hey! This is first that kind of vessel, and second, it is a huge ship!

What will the future bring?

Ok, hard to say what will bring the future, but there is a strong development of superconducting motors. First, that unit was already created, so we need approximately 10-15 years to use this technology in commercial solutions!


They are not only the future, they are taking the market right now. In my personal opinion, they are giving more flexibility and reliability than classic solutions with a big diesel engine. Do this kind of system installed at Ever Given would help? Definitely, they will have more maneuvring possibilities.


  • Mateusz Białas

    Researcher of Autonomous and Remotely Controlled ships. Since 2014 in Maritime Industry. Experience gained at Ro-Ro, Ferry, Container, and Heavy Lifts, design of Navy Ships.

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