Azipod® propulsion moves yachting into a new era of sustainability

From its launch three decades ago, Azipod® propulsion has become a maritime industry benchmark for environmentally-friendly vessel technology, with its proven ability to cut fuel consumption by up to 20 percent compared to traditional shaft line propulsion systems.

The attraction of Azipod® propulsion for superyacht owners lies in a combination of simplicity and efficiency. An electric motor housed in a pod is suspended under the ship’s hull, with the propeller connected directly to the motor, allowing the unit to rotate 360 degrees and provide thrust available in all directions, while minimising noise and vibration.

Silent operations with less vibration enhance comfort and are key indicators of high quality in vessels. But lower levels of vibration also benefit the vessel itself, with less physical wear on equipment and superstructure.

In addition to ensuring the highest standards of comfort onboard, podded electric propulsion allows for more flexibility in the overall layout of the vessel, where the placement of the system can be optimally customised.

With 20 years of experience in the superyacht industry, Azipod® propulsion is building an impressive track record in one of the most demanding passenger vessel segments.

Following the launch of Compact Azipod® propulsion in the beginning of 2000s, MY Ice, built by Lürssen and MY Ambroisa III, built by Benetti became the first yachts to be equipped with ABB’s innovative propulsion system, customized to meet the needs of new vessel segments. Both yachts were delivered in 2005.

The owners of MY Ice had reliable, clean, fuel-efficient and silent operations at the top of their list, making Azipod® propulsion the natural choice. Following months of busy operation, Steven Lloyd, Chief Engineer of MY Ice, concluded: “In short, we are very happy with the Compact Azipod® installation and look forward to many more installations in yachts in the very near future.”

The next order for the Compact Azipod® system followed shortly after for MY Kogo built by Alstom Marine and delivered in 2006, leading to a string of orders for the years to come.

Illustration of Azipod propulsion system
Azipod propulsion is paving the way in the world of sustainable superyachting

In 2015 ABB signed an order with Benetti for a new luxury superyacht, now sailing as MY Luminosity, the third of Benetti’s newbuilds with ABB supplying electrical propulsion and power systems. The owner selected Azipod® propulsion for energy efficiency and passenger comfort.

Another milestone followed in 2016, when ABB signed an order with German builder Nobiskrug for the pioneering superyacht Artefact, supporting them to comply with stricter “Tier III” emissions regulations from the International Maritime Organization then taking effect. ABB supplied Azipod® propulsion, the power distribution system Onboard DC Grid™ and Power and Energy Management System (PEMS™) to ensure optimal efficiency.

ABB’s debut contract with Dutch luxury yacht builder Oceanco for Azipod® technology, announced in 2021, paved the way for broader cooperation on sustainable electric propulsion. “Efficient energy management systems, energy storage, and advanced propulsion systems are considered fundamental to achieving our goal,” said Remco Jurgens, Naval Architect at Oceanco. “We see ABB as a leading supplier and an essential partner for future developments.”

Environmentally conscious design features make yachts a better fit for the most desirable destinations as well, as many of the world’s most pristine locations are becoming designated as zero carbon emissions areas. “For clients seeking unrestricted access to the most beautiful parts of the world, some element of zero emissions operation will therefore become increasingly critical,” said James Roy, Managing Director of Lateral Naval Architects. “In many cases they see the need to innovate on technology and operate above and ahead of regulations.”

He points to the increasing importance of alliances between owners and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like ABB in order to achieve this goal: “As the average superyacht becomes larger and longer, the overlap in power and performance between yachting, cruise, scientific survey vessels and naval vessels increases, which is resulting in a spread of technology in all directions. This allows superyacht builders the option to de-risk custom, one-off superyachts by using proven systems provided by large OEMs.”

As yachts become more technologically advanced, and explore remote places further, ABB’s presence worldwide becomes more important. ABB takes care of the yachts with a dedicated aftersales center of excellence placed in the hearth of the Mediterranean Sea. With 24/7 availability ABB is able to support the yacht needs with one single point of contact and a yacht-minded team at owner disposal.

Having been closely involved in the propulsion, automation and control of superyachts for two decades, the trend as seen from the ABB perspective is clear: today’s owners are genuinely passionate about the effects of their activities on the global environment, leading them to invest in more sustainable and efficient technologies.

The built-in efficiency and flexibility of Azipod® propulsion technology places it firmly at the center of yachting’s new drive to sustainability.

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