ABB drive technology helps Viking Grace sail in and out of port quickly, safely

2014-09-01 - Much has been made of technological advances below deck on the Viking Grace, the world’s first liquified natural gas-powered large passenger ferry that makes the run between Turku, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden.
The Viking Grace's winches use ABB drives to help make port calls more efficient

But attention should be directed, as well, to the sophisticated winch system that allows the 218-meter ship owned by Viking Line to complete port calls quickly and seamlessly, so it can begin the next leg of its journey without delay.

Accurate and constant tension control on ropes securing the vessel are critical elements to ensure the Viking Grace can quickly unload up to 2,800 passengers and as many as 500 automobiles on board.

ABB’s ACS 800 industrial drive technology allowed winch supplier Norwegian Deck Machinery of Bergen, Norway, to avoid using the hydraulic systems of the past that, among other things, could leak oil. Instead, the Viking Grace’s winches rely on ABB frequency converters, to precisely control the speed of the motors, making sure the ship can complete its port calls on schedule.

Customers demand ABB frequency converters

Jarle Sorstronen, managing director of Norwegian Deck Machinery
“We are using ABB all the time,” said Jarle Sorstronen, managing director of Norwegian Deck Machinery. “And sometimes, it’s a customer request to have ABB frequency converters.”

The Viking Grace’s owner, Viking Line, chose ABB to supply the vessel’s complete electrical power plant and propulsion system together with the EMMA energy management system, part of ABB’s vessel advisory suite, to make the LNG-powered ferry one of the world’s most environmentally friendly vessels of its kind.

But the ferry fleet’s flagship needed an equally efficient system to make sure it could speed visits in and out of Stockholm and Turku, a challenge that demands precise operation of maritime winches operating at low-speeds with high torque.

At one time, marine winches were controlled by hydraulic systems whose dampening properties, at least until recently, couldn’t be matched by electrical controls.

New electronic drives beat hydraulics

But ABB, whose drive technology was initially developed for anchor winches before being expanded, has created a new solution that’s made electrical control much more precise and reliable.
One of ABB's ACS800 drives for marine applications
In fact, with the ABB’s solution, electrical force control has advanced to the point where it is now as good - or even better - than the hydraulic systems it is replacing.

“NDM saw several benefits of using ABB drives and ABB winch software,” said Frank-Robert Fauskanger, ABB’s drives sales manager in Fyllingsdalen, Norway. “So they adapted our solution, and put it into their winches.”

Continuous technical development

Now, Norwegian Deck Machinery and ABB are working together to develop even more sophisticated winching solutions, both for offshore applications and expanding ferry businesses.

“We can together further develop even more complex winches,” said Sorstronen. “Using our market knowledge and contacts, combined with ABB’s expertise in frequency converters, we are doing continuous technical development together.”

Before outfitting the Viking Grace prior to its 2013 commissioning, ABB supplied Viking Line with additional drive solutions to help the shipowner solve stubborn challenges.

For instance, ABB outfitted the ferry operator’s m/s Mariella with an ACS 800 industrial drive after its previous three-speed mooring control system was blamed for damaging motors.

‘We don’t have to touch it anymore’

The result has been lower costs, reduced maintenance and improved reliability for the ship and its 2,500 passengers as they make the Helsinki-Mariehamn-Stockholm run.

“The best thing is that we don’t have to touch it anymore.” says Jonas Rautelius, the Mariella’s electrician. “It’s easier, winch operators can just put the auto-mooring control on and leave the winch. With the old system, they had to constantly see if the rope was tight.”

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