Marine Propulsion Technology: What’s New and Emerging in 2020

By Mark Edward Nero

The business of modernizing equipment that has become outdated over time is constantly evolving, with companies around the world continuously looking for ways to improve boat engines and ancillary equipment. These same companies are also introducing new marine propulsion technology to reduce consumption and emissions while increasing power.

This is good for commercial fishermen, as new, better and faster tech on a boat can mean staying one step ahead of the competition.

Fishermen’s News reached out to various companies around the globe to ascertain what direction the marine propulsion industry was heading, and here’s what some of them had to say.

KEM Equipment

Kodiak Marine, a division of KEM Equipment has begun offering two high tech gasoline engines for sale in 2020 and also has a new engine in development.

One of the two new engines is the LT4, a supercharged, intercooled, direct injection engine with variable valve timing and more than 600 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.

The other new engine is the LSX, which measures 454 cubic inches. It uses variable valve timing, has Siamese cylinders that allow for large displacement in a compact LS block architecture; and has modern high-tech features like oil squirters to reduce piston temperatures for long life, new casting technologies and metallurgy.

The LSX, which also boasts 500 hp and 500 foot-pounds of torque from pump gas, can be utilized, according to Kodiak, as a replacement engine for doubles and triples where its smaller form factor than the engines it replaces means better access for service.

Kodiak says it has also designed an engine custom tailored to commercial fishing. Although the company wouldn’t release specifics, what’s currently known is that it is planned for between 8.8 and 10.3L displacement and 575 to 650 foot-pounds of torque from 2,500 to 4,000 rpm. Also, it’s being designed to run on 87-octane gasoline and have cylinder walls thick enough to be bored out for service life of more than 10,000 hours.

MAN Engines

During the second quarter of 2019, MAN Engines, a business unit of MAN Truck & Bus, began offering 12-cylinder, IMO Tier III emission standards engines for workboats, spanning a comprehensive power range from 551 to 1,213 kW.

The engines are geared toward customers in Canada and America’s East and West Coast Emission Control Areas (ECAs), which are now subject to regulatory limits around 70 percent stricter than IMO Tier II.

The engines now also give customers in the North Sea and Baltic Sea ECAs a series of MAN Engines options as they prepare for the mandatory limits that go into effect in January 2021.

MAN is beginning to see increasing inquiries regarding hybrid and electric propulsion systems, according to company spokeswoman Julia Milbert.

“MAN Engines is constantly developing new technologies to meet the market/customers’ demands and has the advantage of being part of the TRATON Group (Volkswagen’s commercial vehicle division) to rely on technology that is already being proven in our trucks and busses in Europe,” she said.

Cox Powertrain

In May, British diesel engine design and engineering company Cox Powertrain announced the start of production of its high-powered diesel outboard, the CXO300. The propulsion unit is being touted by Cox as the world’s highest-powered diesel outboard engine.

At cruise speeds between 40-46 mph, the CXO300 performed fuel burns of between 20 and 28 gallons per hour in tests, 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 cruise speeds.

Delivering 300 hp at the propeller, the CXO300 is based on the proven technology of a 4-stroke, V8 architecture. The engines, which weigh 840 lbs. come with the option of three leg lengths: 25 inches, 30 inches and 35 inches.

Production of the engine was hampered the first half of the year by supply issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but in April, Cox Powertrain had predicted that by the end of June they would be producing 38 engines a week in order to keep up with demand.

“2020 is going to be a momentous year for Cox Powertrain, one which many of us have been waiting to see happen for a few years now,” company principal engineer Vince Parry said.


German steerable propulsion systems manufacturer Schottel has been promoting its latest generation of controllable pitch propellers, which are geared to meet the demands of the fishing industry. Because of the adjustability of the pitch of the propeller blades, the propellers are suited, the maker says, for a wide range of operating conditions, including maneuvering, berthing, and fishing operations.

“The highly reliable systems are optimally suited for higher speeds, which require high power density, low pressure pulses and minimized noise generation,” the company said in a statement provided to Fishermen’s News. “The new hub shape greatly reduces the risk of cavitation, which might occur in demanding, high-load applications.”

The new hub also has a full-feathering mode in which the propeller blades are set parallel to the flow to minimize drag resistance. This, according to the company, leads to further optimized propulsion efficiency and reduced fuel consumption as well as lower maintenance costs.

“Thanks to the latest mechanical design and hydrodynamic techniques, (the hub) offers a significant increase in efficiency and a blade foot with decreased exposure to cavitation,” Schottel explained.

The power spectrum of the SCP ranges from 600 to 30,000 kW, according to Schottel, with propeller diameters from about 1.5 m to 8.0 m.

Volvo Penta

Volvo Penta recently introduced its updated D4 and D6 propulsion systems, which have been re-engineered with redesigned engines, new stern drives, an updated IPS drive and a new EVC (Electronic Vessel Control) platform.

The D4 and D6 systems were originally introduced in 2003, but have been upgraded for 2020, with the company stating that its new state-of-the-art models include a 10 percent power increase over the previous models, as well as 30 percent lower service costs and 30 percent increased reliability via strengthened exposed items, such as bearings, shafts and housings and improved oil filtration.

The new EVC offers improvements in the on-board and off-board diagnostics, including a more modern diagnostic system, including a new fault code format, new fault code texts and diagnostics that are synchronized from all drive lines.

“Better diagnostics improve the support for the customer,” Volvo Penta said. “It will be easier to find the correct root cause to a problem and provide a solution.”


Over the last couple of 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.

“We just launched it in the US for the first time,” company spokesman Al Alcala said. “It has given us a remarkable ability to use one engine platform in many different ways for many different ratings and horsepower applications, all with one basic part number of an engine.”

“We have a 13-liter model, I call it the Swedish pocket knife – a play on the Swiss Army knife – it has many different horsepower and duty cycles available to it, and it’s one hardware set, the same numbers inside the engine, but it’ll go from 650 all the way up to 800 horsepower,” Alcala said.

The company’s new XPI fuel system also allows for a duty cycle of unlimited hours a year on the engine, he added.

“Basically, you can run that engine 24/7, dusk to dawn, 80 percent load factor. That same engine can be selected at an 800 hp rating and it’ll give you 2,000 hours a year at that rating,” he explained. “Bridging duty cycles with one part number helps reduce inventory costs, because I can keep one engine that can do more than one thing.”

Alcala said that the company is 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. And we are working with others to ensure compatibility in the future for our customers,” he said. “This is something that can benefit the fishing industry.”