VIDEO: Liberty Lines puts its first hybrid fast ferry into operation

Written by Nick Blenkey
Liberty Lines ferrt

Photo: Rolls-Royce

Italian ferry operator Liberty Lines yesterday commissioned the 39.5 meter, 251 passenger Vittorio Morace, the world’s first hybrid fast ferry in its category and size. Built by Spanish shipyard Astilleros Armon and designed by Incat Crowther, it is powered by an MTU hybrid propulsion system from Rolls-Royce and has a speed of over 30 and has been classified as a “Green Plus” ship by classification society RINA.

Named after the founder of the shipping company, the Vittorio Morace is the first of a series of new high-speed ferries that Liberty Lines will operate between Sicily and the neighboring Aeolian and Egadi islands as well as between the Italian mainland, Croatia and Slovenia.

The battery-electric part of the drive is used for locally emission-free operations in the harbor area and as a booster. CO2 emissions are reduced by the particularly efficient MTU Series 4000 diesel engines which can also run on HVO renewable diesel. The comparatively low overall weight of both the engines and the hybrid drive system contributes to high vessel propulsion efficiency, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

“We chose MTU hybrid systems because we want to minimize the environmental impact of our new fleet while not compromising on the high speed and range of our vessels,” said Liberty Lines CEO Gennaro Carlo Cotella. “As we have trusted MTU products for decades, we have also opted for this partnership for our major fleet renewal.”

Liberty Lines, which is well-known for its hydrofoil services to Sicily, is Italy’s largest operator of high speed passenger services and its ferries are a lifeline for the inhabitants of the Sicilian archipelago. The fleet operates all year round, transporting more than three and a half million passengers on routes of up to 100 nautical miles.

“Liberty Lines is the ideal partner to demonstrate the progress that can be made towards environmentally and climate-friendly ship operation,” said Denise Kurtulus, vice president global marine at Rolls-Royce Power Systems . “We have used all possibilities and combined highly efficient combustion engines with exhaust gas aftertreatment, batteries and electric motors with an intelligent electronic control system to create an emission-optimised system. Together with Liberty Lines, Armon and Incat Crowther, we have developed a passenger ferry that will set new standards in this category of shipbuilding. We are proud of this. Our goal is to help this technology achieve a breakthrough.”

Automation and monitoring: MTU NautIQ Blue Vision NG and MTU NautIQ Foresight

All components are coordinated by the MTU NautIQ Blue Vision NG control and monitoring system. The complete propulsion systems of the first two ships in the new series will be monitored by the MTU NautIQ Foresight equipment health monitoring system. It collects data on the technical condition and analyses and stores it in order to improve the operational availability of the ship, reduce maintenance costs and lower fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions.

How does the MTU hybrid propulsion system work?

When entering and leaving the port areas, the batteries ensure silent and emission-free manoeuvring. They supply power to all the ship’s electrical equipment and the bow thrusters. When the ship leaves the harbor and increases speed, the MTU combustion engines are used. They drive the propellers directly, enabling the ship to travel at speeds of up to 30 knots. At the same time, they drive the hybrid electric motors via the gearboxes to charge the batteries and supply the electrical consumers on board without having to operate gensets. The generators on board are available as a backup. When the ship is in harbour, the batteries are used for the entire electrical supply on board during shorter stopovers, also silently and emission-free without power generators. During longer stopovers, shore power can be connected to recharge the batteries.

hybrid system in new Liberty Lines ferries

Technical data MTU hybrid propulsion packs for Liberty Lines ferries:

  • Combustion Engines: 2 x MTU 16V4000 M65L, rated at 2,560 kW @ 1,800 rpm. IMO Tier III and US EPA Tier 4 emission compliant, together with MTU SCR exhaust after-treatment systems
  • Gearboxes: Reintjes WVSA-1542 hybrid-capable with clutchable PTO/PTIs for interfacing with electric machines
  • Electric machines: 2 x Danfoss Editron EM-PMI375 T1100-2900 permanent magnet E-Machines. Providing in this case about 130 kW each of propulsion power, and when in charging mode up to about 260 kW each. By using variable speed electric motors, it allows the use of simple fixed pitch propellers for the vessel.
  • Generator Sets: 2 x 100 kWe variable-speed gensets, operating from 1,000 – 2,400 rpm, with lightweight PM generators
  • Batteries: 3 x 11 EST Green Orca 1050 Battery Packs (346 kWh total installed)
  • DC Switchboards (incl. DC power converters, circuit breakers, filters and protection equipment)
  • Electrical Power Management System
  • MTU NautIQ Blue Vision NG_Hybrid Control and Monitoring System – controlling and monitoring the complete Hybrid Propulsion system, and also the main ship systems (such as tanks, bilge alarms, gensets, etc.)
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