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Thursday, June 3, 2021 

Following the award of a contract to Damen Shipyards for nine Blue Amigo passenger vessels to operate waterbus services between Rotterdam and the Drecht cities in the Netherlands, Damen identified a need for a special 360-degree azimuthing thruster on six of the carbon-fibre hulled vessels that would make docking easy and propulsion fast.

Damen design and proposal engineer Ferries, Jan van Ooijen, said: “It’s actually the kind of thruster you would expect to see on a pleasure craft. On a passenger vessel, though, we needed something more manoeuvrable and robust.”

Damen approached sterable propulsion company Hydromaster, whose fully-mechanical design thrusters propel ferries, ships, barges and pontoons worldwide.  The two companies joined forces to develop this new thruster.

Hydromaster commercial manager Jan Terlouw said: “We had already been working on something that would meet these requirements. A 375kW thruster, able to operate at speeds of up to and beyond 25 knots and durable enough to cover over 4,000 hours each year. But we had never built it. Once Damen signed its contract with Blue Amigo, we got the green light to go ahead.”

Hydromaster approached MARIN, the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands, which worked together with Hydromaster to develop the hydromechanics necessary to produce the thruster.  MARIN was able to provide the detailed calculations that would facilitate a CFD study and the fine-tuning of Hydromaster’s design.

Jesse Slot, project manager ships, MARIN said: “It’s always a challenge to strike a balance between efficiency and vibration. Because of the high speed required in this instance, to took us some time to get where we needed to be.”

Following a thorough assessment of Damen’s hull design, MARIN's solution was a propeller of 840mm diameter with a clearance of 23% diameter from the hull -reducing vibration to a minimum and allowing for increased efficiency. To control the thruster, Damen developed in-house  a single joystick controller that is intuitive to use and fulfills the circle of efficiency offered by the thruster.

Van Ooijen said: “This is a compact installation that takes the concept of standardised shipbuilding and applies it on another level. The result maximises the performance of the vessel and offers the reliability required for a ferry service. We can see a future for this type of thruster.”

Terlouw added: “We have already started to extend this range of High Speed Azimuth thrusters with a higher power output towards the 900kW mark. We see a good potential for this type of thruster, not only for fast ferries, but also for example on crew transfer vessels for the offshore wind sector, supporting the production of sustainable energy, and other fast craft.”

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