6 March 2015

Europe’s greenest inland vessel debuts Damen group innovations

Early February Damen Shipyards Group launched the first LNG-powered Damen EcoLiner inland shipping tanker at its Romanian yard. The EcoLiner is developed to deliver much-needed fuel economy for inland shipping operators while at the same time cutting emissions. The EcoLiner design combines conventional, proven engineering with sustainable innovations, including the world’s first installations of the ACES Air-Lubricated Hull, a gas-electrical shaft propulsion system and one of the first Van der Velden® FLEX Tunnel installations. The pioneering vessel dramatically reduces fuel costs by up to 25%. The European Union, following its ambitious goal towards greening the transport sector, co-finances this project from the Trans-European Transport Network Programme with more than €1.1 million as part of the project “LNG Masterplan for Rhine-Main-Danube”.

Damen recently completed comprehensive tank testing of the new design at research institute MARIN, which confirmed the EcoLiner’s efficiency. Simon Provoost, Product Director Inland Waterway Transport at Damen Shipyards, says testing how the design combined multiple innovations was very important so that Damen could offer the 3,040 m3 capacity EcoLiner to the market with utmost confidence.

“After successfully testing at MARIN, we can now complete the build in the Netherlands and we’re talking with a number of interested parties. Fuel accounts for a very large proportion of inland shipping costs, so if operators can save 20% or more, that generates a lot of interest.”

How the EcoLiner reduces costs and emissions

“Every part of the EcoLiner has been designed to reduce fuel consumption,” Provoost continues. “That, combined with low-emission LNG instead of marine diesel, makes the EcoLiner easily the greenest inland shipping vessel in Europe. It’s increasingly important for owners and clients to demonstrate sustainable operations and prepare for future ‘green corridors’ subject to inland emissions regulations.”

A list of top innovations on board the EcoLiner:

  • ACES air lubrication has demonstrated 15% fuel savings
  • First to combine gas-electric propulsion with trusted, low-maintenance shaft propulsion configuration
  • Clean LNG fuel dramatically reduces CO2, SOX, NOX and particulate emissions
  • Power management system for 4 x LNG fueled generator sets ensures optimum engine loads and reduced fuel consumption upstream and downstream
  • Retractable Van der Velden® FLEX tunnels reduce resistance, and make it possible to install larger, high efficiency ducted propellers
  • Optional waste heat recovery system to heat or cool cargo and accommodation

Modular design

The EcoLiner project is managed by Damen Shipyards Hardinxveld. Rob Schuurmans, project manager and the initiator of this innovative concept says: “With the hull built in Romania and installation and outfitting of all main systems in the Netherlands, including all generator-gas engines, power management, propulsion and steering gear, we make efficient use of our specialized facilities. The ship is 110 metres long and is Bureau Veritas-classed. Delivery is scheduled in the summer of 2015.”

The first EcoLiner will be delivered as a tanker, however the modular design can be built to transport any commodity, including containers and dry bulk. The complete LNG installation, including tanks with bunker capacity of approximately 45 m3 LNG, is located aft of the accommodation, ensuring that the configuration forward of the cofferdam can be entirely tailored to customer-specific requirements.

The Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ADN-UNECE) has approved the gas-powered design, meaning the vessel can travel on all international inland waterways.

Background on Damen Ecoliner innovations:

ACES Air-Lubricated Hull


The EcoLiner is the first vessel to feature the ‘ACES’ (Air Chamber Energy Saving) air-lubricated hull, originally developed at former Damen shipyard Bodewes. In tank testing and full-scale trials, the ACES concept has demonstrated dramatic fuel savings of up to 15% depending on speed and load.

“People often think of air lubrication as bubbles running underneath the hull,” Provoost explains. “But ACES is very different. The air is held in chambers under the hull and you push a small amount of air into the chamber to compensate for any air that might escape while underway. It’s a simple concept, but delivers substantial savings.”

Electric shaft propulsion in combination with Van der Velden® FLEX Tunnel

LNG-powered electric propulsion is not new to inland shipping, but the EcoLiner is the first to combine LNG-fuelling with electrical shaft driven propulsion and steering gear instead of electric driven rudder propellers. The EcoLiner is also the first Damen vessel delivered with the Van der Velden® FLEX tunnel.

“The inland shipping industry has shown the most success with relatively conventional propulsion installations,” Provoost says. “Our aim was to get the highest efficiency with the least maintenance – that’s why we’ve gone for a modern take on proven engineering. Installing the retractable Van der Velden® FLEX tunnel further increases fuel efficiency.”

Inland shipping vessels typically use shaft tunnels to ensure optimal water flow to larger, more efficient propellers at shallow draughts. The downside of conventional tunnels is an increase in hull resistance. Moreover, inland ships are loaded and therefore sail in deeper water conditions for about 85 percent of the time. During these conditions, the Van der Velden® FLEX tunnel is retracted to avoid added resistance. When sailing at shallow draughts, the Van der Velden® FLEX tunnel deploys to ensure sufficient water flow to the propellers and maintain their efficiency.

“Our solution of two shaft lines with a FLEX Tunnel, high efficiency nozzle propellers and steering gear delivers the most cost effective performance with the least maintenance.”

LNG Masterplan for Rhine-Main-Danube

The Inland Waterway tanker type “Ecoliner” was developed as a part of the EU-supported LNG Masterplan for Rhine-Main-Danube project, one of the biggest innovation projects financed through the TEN-T programme. The LNG Masterplan aims to promote LNG as a fuel and cargo for the inland navigation industry. It also formulates and enforces the necessary (safety) regulations for the use and transport of LNG. The LNG Masterplan benefits from over €40 million of EU support and is implemented by a consortium of 33 companies and organisations from the public and private sectors across twelve European Member States. The project is coordinated by Pro Danube Management GmbH and the Rotterdam Port Authority. For more information, you may refer to www.lngmasterplan.eu.


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