By R. Bruce Striegler

Zurich-based ABB (ASEA Brown Boveri) is considered one of the world’s largest engineering companies that has gained added prominence with its focus on robotics and power automation technology. Mercy Ships, the international charity that’s treated more than two million people aboard its shipboard hospitals since its founding in 1978, this year turned to ABB to supply electrical propulsion and power systems to a new flagship hospital vessel. With a working name of Atlantic Mercy, the ship is scheduled for delivery in 2017.

A critical factor in Mercy Ship’s decision revolves around ABB’s proprietary technology, the Azipod propulsion system, which is considered by marine professionals as the most advanced propulsion assembly in modern passenger ships. Called the Azipod C, the system features a gearless, steerable mechanism with the electric drive motor housed in a submerged pod under the stern of the ship. Azipod propulsion is designed to reduce vessel lifecycle costs and increase ship profitability. Azipod C provides ship-owners and operators with high efficiency, excellent maneuverability, silent, vibration- free operation and increased transportation capacity.

Quoted in a press release, Jim Paterson, Senior Vice-President of marine operations for Mercy Ships says, “Our ships have to be pretty self-sufficient and able to provide, not only for the hospital, but also for the 400 plus crew, staff and family members who serve on board. A reliable power source and distribution system is critical for this to happen.” Power production system on-board the Atlantic Mercy is designed to ensure power supply for the hospital functions in any possible fault situation. In addition, the ABB power and propulsion unit will be supported by a remote diagnostics system and around-the-clock telephone assistance to ensure uninterrupted operations. “Even if shore power was offered, we could not count on it to provide a safe and clean source of power to operate our hospitals. Using Azipod propulsion also enables us to dock in tight spots and not be dependent on tug support for arrival or even unexpected departures”, says Mercy Ship’s Paterson.

The 174-metre hospital ship has been designed by the Finnish firm Deltamarin. Stena RoRo, Sweden’s leading innovators of roll on/roll off cargo and passenger concepts, is managing construction at China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation’s Tianjin Xingang Shipyard. Atlantic Mercy will include nearly 7,000 square metres of hospital space, six operating rooms and facilities for 950 patients when in port. ABB’s Azipod C thruster package built since 2011 at the company’s manufacturing facilities in Shanghai, China, will mark the first time a hospital ship has been equipped with the ABB electrical propulsion system. The Azipod system will deliver up to 4.5 megawatts and has been used on a range of vessels including offshore support vessels, oil drilling rigs, ferries and cruise ships.