Of all the equipment housed on a commercial fishing vessel, propulsion is obviously among the most important. After all, if you can’t be propelled out into middle of the ocean, then your chances of successful deepwater fishing are very limited, at best.
Plus, when dealing with rough seas, strong winds and/or high waves, fishing vessels have to be able to cope with the extreme weather conditions at sea at all times. Whether they’re trawlers, live fish carriers or longliners, adapting the equipment optimally to the fishing vessel’s operational profile is vital for efficient operations.
Fortunately for the commercial fishing industry, a number of companies around the globe make it their business to advance the state of marine propulsion technology, and create new and different products.
Here is what some of them have been working on in recent times.
German steerable propulsion systems manufacturer Schottel recently released two new products: a controllable propeller and a retractable tunnel rudder propeller.
The Schottel Controllable Propeller, or SCP, “combines maximum thrust and maneuverability with utmost reliability, low operating costs and user-friendly operation,” the company said in a statement sent to Fishermen’s News.
“Particularly suitable for fishing vessels fulfilling different operation profiles, the SCP always provides optimal propulsion power for changing speeds or loads,” the statement continued. “In addition, the robust design keeps maintenance to a minimum and ensures a long service life.”
Regarding the Schottel Retractable Tunnel Rudder Propeller, known as the SRP-RT, the company stated that it “combines the advantages of a retractable propulsion system with those of a transverse thruster.”
“This means that the SRP-RT can be used as a transverse thruster when retracted and as fully steerable propulsion unit when extended,” the statement explained. “By rotating the underwater section through 360 degrees, the full propulsion power can be deployed for maneuvering and dynamic positioning. The SRP-RT can also be used as take-home system.”
Within the past couple of years, Schottel has also brought to market the SCP – Schottel Controllable Propeller – which allows the propeller blades to be adjusted in pitch for maneuvering and to adapt to changing operating conditions.
The propellers are designed, according to Schottel, to meet customers’ individual requirements using state-of-the-art calculation methods such as software-based flow simulation.
“These ensure that the SCP meets the specific requirements of the customer,” the company explained. “The operator thus benefits from a high degree of efficiency with lower fuel and operating costs.”
Indiana-based marine engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. has been working on a technology referred to as “condition-based maintenance” by marine market manager Brian Pinkstaff.
“Instead of changing your filters and oil at a set hour, you can now purchase a Cummins Fleetguard system and with that technology, you’re able to have sensors that monitor the restriction in your oil filters and the quality of the key components in the oil itself, so that you only have to make those oil changes when you’re truly ready to make them,” Pinkstaff, who’s based in Washington state, explained.
The product is good for the environment, according to Pinkstaff, in that it can lessen users’ carbon footprint in that they’re not wasting oil or creating waste with the filters, and it also increases the operational time of gear because equipment isn’t being worked on as much.
The technology, commonly known as FIT— which stands for Filtration Intelligence Technology—is currently available, Pinkstaff said. It’s being paired with another telematics system called PrevenTech. When paired together, they can be used to send information via the cloud to a common server.
Via an app, things like engine fault codes, vessel location and vessel speed can be monitored, Pinkstaff explained.
“All of those types of pieces of information are now broadcast on land. You could have a fleet of vessel running around and you know where they’re at, you know what they’re up to,” he said, which enables things like being able to predict when parts need maintenance.
“It’s another piece that we’re focusing technology on,” he remarked. “It’s ‘how can we keep this piece of equipment running on this vessel for as much time and as least amount of hassle as possible’.”
Regarding new products currently in development at Schottel that could come to market within the next couple of years, Pinkstaff said that the company has been working on a cooling system.
“Something new that we’ve developed for Bristol Bay,” he said, is “the ability to put a keel cooled rating on the 600 horsepower (QSC 600 engine). So now you can run it closed loop.”
It’ll be available for the 2022 Bristol Bay season, he said.
“We anticipate quite a few customers are going to be happy about being able to run a closed system instead of having to use raw water running through their seawater propeller,” Pinkstaff said.
Regarding the company’s hybrid packages, he said that Cummins has a new E4.5 marine engine coming out in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“We’re currently working on a hybrid package for that 4.6 liter,” he remarked. “Which is good, because I think hybrid is moving along the lines of ‘how can we be more efficient with our operations,’ and depending on how the vessel’s being run, you can do a lot with a hybrid.”
Further still on the horizon, Pinkstaff said, is the fuel cell vessel Sea Change, which is currently in production at All American Marine boat builders in Bellingham, Wash. Cummins hydrogen fuel cells are powering the vessel, which could become North America’s first commercial zero emissions ferry.
The 70-foot, 75 passenger high-speed ZEF is planned as the flagship for a planned future fuel-cell powered fleet, transporting commuters around the San Francisco Bay.
“If you’re talking about new technology and what’s coming down the pipeline, for sure that fuel cell-powered vessel is cutting edge,” he said. “It’s far out maybe, but it’s happening right now.”
Kodiak Marine, a division of Oregon-based KEM Equipment, has introduced the LT4, a supercharged, intercooled, direct injection engine with variable valve timing. It features a 1.7L Eaton R1740 TVS supercharger, which spins at up to 20,000 rpm, which is enough to generate more than nine pounds of boost and help produce more than 650 hp
and 650 foot-pounds of torque.
The very high-power density high performance engine is geared toward users who need greater horsepower and torque than is standard, according to the company.
In May 2020, during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, British diesel engine design and engineering company Cox Powertrain announced that it was beginning production of its high-powered diesel outboard, the CXO300. The engine, which is now available, has been touted by Cox as being among the world’s highest-powered diesel outboards.
Designed for both commercial and recreational use, the CXO300 recorded cruise speeds of between 40-46 mph during tests, according to Cox Powertrain. The CXO300 also performed fuel burns of between 20 and 28 gallons per hour in tests, according to the company, compared to the twin gas 300 hp engines on the same boat, which produced a fuel burn of 24 to 35 gallons per hour at the same speeds.
Delivering 300 hp at the propeller, the CXO300 is based on 4-stroke, V8 architecture. The engines, which weigh 840 lbs., were released with the option of three leg lengths: 25 inches, 30 inches and 35 inches.
Last year, Volvo Penta debuted its modernized D4 and D6 propulsion systems. The D4 and D6 were originally introduced in 2003, but were upgraded for 2020, with the company stating that its new state-of-the-art models include a 10% power increase over the previous models, as well as 30% lower service costs and 30% increased reliability via strengthened exposed items, such as bearings, shafts and housings and improved oil filtration.
They’ve also been re-engineered with redesigned engines, new stern drives, an updated IPS drive and a new Electronic Vessel Control platform, which offers improvements in the on-board and off-board diagnostics, including a more modern diagnostic system, according to the company.
In recent years, Swedish marine solutions company Scania has changed the fuel system on the top end of its engine range from a unit injector to a hybrid power fuel system.
It gives the company the ability to use one engine platform in many different ways for many different ratings and horsepower applications, with one basic part number of an engine.
The company has a 13-liter model that has various horsepower and duty cycles available to it even with one hardware set. The same numbers are inside the engine, but it can go from 650 up to 800 horsepower, according to the company.
The company’s relatively new XPI fuel system also allows for a duty cycle of unlimited hours a year on the engine, according to Scania. A spokesman has also previously said that the company’s also working on hybrid technology that could be deployed to the commercial fishing market within the next couple of years as a reaction to increasingly more stringent emissions rules.
“Right now, we are working to be compatible with many hybrid system manufacturers,” spokesman Al Alcala told Fishermen’s News. “And we are working with others to ensure compatibility in the future for our customers.”