Eekels and KWx: two electric ferries for lake Ontario
Integral electrical systems
Eekels is currently working on the integral electrical systems for two electric ferries that are being built by Damen Shipyards. The ferries will be put into service on Lake Ontario in Canada. They are hybrid, but will be primarily battery-powered with a diesel engine as back-up to ensure maximum mobility. During passenger and vehicle boarding and disembarkation, the ferry has a time frame of about 10 minutes to charge its batteries through a charging station at the terminal. According to Damen, by making the two ferries electric, there will be a 7 million kg reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide.
Reliability and service life
Looking back on the project with Marvin de Haan (Cluster Manager at Eekels) and Ronald Kuiper (Lead Engineer Drive Systems at Eekels), Kuiper says that the biggest challenge was to fully integrate all the components into a Power Management System (PMS): ‘We had to make sure all the components would work in tandem: the generators, the batteries, the thrusters and also the interaction with the onshore charging station. De Haan added that this was the first time a complex panel had been delivered with such a high degree of integrated automation while being able to ensure the reliability and longevity of the system. After the last successful tests, the cabinets for the first ferry have been transported to the Galati shipyards in Romania, where both Damen and Eekels have offices and workshops. There, the cabinets with the electrical installations will be installed in the ferry. Meanwhile, the production of cabinets for the second ferry has started at Eekels’ main production site in Kolham. The first ferry is expected to be handed over in early 2020 and the second, larger ferry will follow by the end of 2020.
Knowledge and commitment at the heart of Eekels and KWx partnership
In several of Eekels’ projects, KWx has been a partner and supplier of power electronic components in the maritime and offshore sectors. Together with KWx, manufacturer Astrol and two other system integrators, Eekels was instrumental in the development of a series of DC breaker switches. Reflecting on the relationship between KWx and Eekels, Kuiper says it stems from previous projects. ‘We had to perform advanced calculations for short-circuits and arc flash hazards in DC systems. Based on the specifications of the manufacturer of propulsion systems, we have calculated high-speed fuses for the Ontario project. Together with KWx and manufacturer Eaton, we have selected the fuses. De Haan: ‘The collaboration with KWx has involved more than a few projects. We have been working together for many years now, and are pretty content with our partnership. Both parties have learned a lot, and the knowledge and skills we have accumulated over the past few years can be put to good use in our current projects.’ When asked about the main advantages of working with KWx, De Haan mentions: ‘Knowledge and commitment. KWx is willing to help when needed and makes sure we stick to the project schedule, which is quite a challenge. We value that in a partner. KWx is so much more than a supplier of components. The company has in-house knowledge and connects us with manufacturers. That sets KWx apart from ‘ordinary’ distributors.’ He adds: ‘It’s great to see KWx playing an active role in innovation by connecting different parties and thereby introducing new solutions, such as the DNV-GL approved DC breaker switch.
Flexibility, fast assembly and customer-driven solutions
When it comes to the future, De Haan and Kuiper foresee increasingly close collaboration between system integrators and shipbuilders in terms of sharing knowledge and learning together. Moreover, De Haan identifies a trend towards modular shipbuilding. He explains: ‘Modular systems allow for more flexibility, fast assembly and customer-driven solutions.’ De Haan is positive about future partnerships between KWx and Eekels. He expects that the trend for larger DC systems on board of vessels will continue, resulting in a shift in the way systems are designed and built. Because of this transition to DC systems, he believes parties like KWx are in a good position to continue collaborating with Eekels. Kuiper adds that the protection of DC systems is becoming increasingly important as safety on board is a critical issue. Time plays a big role here, because you want to be able to switch off as soon as possible once a short circuit occurs, to prevent subsequent damage. In those cases, a DC breaker switch could be a good alternative to a high-speed fuse. Kuiper also expects that classification societies will establish new standards to ensure the safety of DC systems.
More information about Eekels and MarPower: