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Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design

Eric Luetjens, ZF Marine GmbH

Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine
transmission design
Eric Luetjens
ZF Marine GmbH
Ehlersstrasse 50, 88046 Friedrichshafen Germany


The paper presents an overview of current marine transmission designs suitable for high speed applications at
sea. The paper concentrates on diesel-mechanical installations with single in single out configurations. It was
originally presented at the FAST 2005 Conference in St Petersburg, Russia in June 2005.


Recent developments towards increasingly higher speeds for ships and boats have lead to the adoption of
advanced propulsion and hull designs. These new systems and hull forms challenge existing marine transmission

1. Propulsion systems

1.1. Fixed pitch propellers (FPP)
Submerged fixed pitch propellers are still the most used propulsion system for small and medium vessels. The
installation of fixed pitch propellers is simple and reliable. However the requirement for reduced engine room
sizes on Yachts and patrol boats demanded a number of different gearbox designs.
Another issue to be considered is the need to deal with varying load and speed as well as sea conditions. This is
especially important for fast ferries but also for patrol vessels with their very varying operating modes.



Time [%]





10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

Load [%]

Fig. 01: Typical load profile for patrol applications

Fig. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens.and output shafts but both in. In an attempt to move the engine further to the aft of the vessel U-Drive transmissions were introduced.and output shaft of the gearbox. This will also reduce the angle in the cardan shaft which prolongs its lifetime and reduces vibrations. with the output shaft below the input shaft in a parallel shaft arrangement. The input side of the gearbox faces the forward side of the vessel. Geometric variations for fixed pitch propellers The conventional installation features a vertical offset between in.1. ZF Marine GmbH 1. 02: Vertical offset installation This arrangement results in an engine room location close to the vessel centre. Fig. 03: U-drive installation However U-Drive installations still require rather large engine room layouts due to the fact that the cardan shaft can not be tilted above a certain limit. Fig. Having an angle of up to 14° between the horizontal input shaft and the output shaft axis these transmissions considerably reduce the required length of the shaft connecting engine and gearbox input. Another advantage of such installation is the fact that the engine can be installed horizontally. facing the aft of the vessel. 04: V-drive installation . So in order to shorten the distance between engine and gearbox V-drive transmissions are nowadays widely used in smaller high speed vessels.and output are located on the same side of the gearbox.1. These transmissions again feature parallel in.

ZF Autotroll® for example is an electronically controlled trolling system that provides a monitored slipping of the input shaft clutch. Fig. heavy see conditions) forces the engine to run in unfavorable conditions.2 Controllable pitch propellers (CPP) Controllable pitch propellers are very widely used in larger fast vessels with big variations in speed or load requirements.1. The efficiency as well as the lifetime of the engine will be reduced if operated for long periods of time in at only 40% load. They also provide good maneuverability for vessels up to approx. So instead of continuously engaging and disengaging the engines a gearbox equipped with a trolling system can meet this operational need. 05: A-drive installation All these installations can feature an integrated thrust bearing in the gearbox or alternatively separately in the shaft line. Gearboxes must be capable to reverse the output shaft rotation for the ship to go ahead and astern. The PTI will provide an additional reduction ratio to meet the input speed requirement for the smaller engine. Operation at slower or medium speed is typical for navy. 85% of their nominal power. Compared to FPP the system is considerably more expensive to install and has higher maintenance requirements.1. often exceeds a speed of five or six knots. One way of dealing with this is to use only one engine in a two shaft installation. 20% and 80% of the fully engaged propeller speed. is the use of a power take in (PTI) on the gearbox. . 1. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. 35kn. In this way the slow speed patrol can be performed using a small electric or hydraulic motor powered by a generator set and leaving the main engines disengaged. To change the pitch of the Propeller hydraulic oil or a mechanical push-pull rod need to be lead through the propeller shaft into the . Geometric Requirements Since CPP are also submerged propellers. Slow speed is limited to the engines idle speed. long channel systems or when boarding or recovering other vessels. most geometric requirements that were mentioned before for FPP are true for CPP too. This is considered to fast for maneuvering in tight marinas. 1. Most engines are optimized for operation at approx. 1. Especially for high speed vessels the ship speed in engine idle speed. ZF Marine GmbH An angular arrangement can also enhance the installation situation using a flanged gearbox on the engine.2. even with only one engine engaged. Operation at slower speed for longer duration (patrol duty.2 Changing speed and direction Fixed pitch propellers depend solely on the shaft rotation speed and direction to vary the vessel speed. police and coast guard applications. However some installation requirements are unique for CPP applications. In this case too the engine can be leveled using the gearbox down angle to meet the propeller shaft inclination. This system allows a controlled operation between approx. affecting the gearbox design. For reversing the full engagement pressure will be applied to assure a fast and reliable reversing even in trolling operation. Another way. Due to the increased heat build up in the clutch trolling operation is limited to approx. 40-50% of the full engine speed. . Due to this behavior certain restrains apply to FPP installations: .

the propellers need to be counter rotating. more common option is an OD-Box directly connected to the fore end of the gearbox output shaft. the gearboxes need to be two shaft (counter engine wise) and three shaft transmissions (engine wise). in that case the output rotation is counter engine wise. (Fig. 06) To provide the hydraulic system for the CPP with oil the oil pumps are usually connected to a power take off (PTO) on the gearbox. If the engines only have one rotation direction. Fig. 06: Reduction transmission with Oil distribution box and CPP Since CPP do not need a reversion of the shaft rotation to change from ahead to astern direction. There are generally two ways of getting this accomplished. For a single screw vessel a two shaft transmission is sufficient. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. the gearboxes in such installation do not need to be reversing gearboxes. 07: Power flow diagram reversing gearbox . If installed in a two shaft vessel. If the main engines can be supplied with opposing rotation directions. However depending on the type of vessel and engine. This requires a connection face on the shaft and on the housing. then two shaft transmissions are still sufficient. Fig. This usually prohibits a flanged connection of gearbox and engine. the gearbox still may need to be a three shaft transmission. The oil distribution box for the hydraulic system can be located in the shaft line behind the gearbox. ZF Marine GmbH hub of the Propeller. The other. this does not effect the transmission.

and output shaft. In those cases. Since the impeller itself is located inside the hull the shaft line is level. In some cases however the input shaft is placed below the output shaft as seen in the center shaft line in (Fig 09). Therefore down angle or V-drive gearboxes are not required. Especially the very narrow hull of catamarans require highly specialized transmission designs to fit the engines near the hull centre line for accessibility and at the same time match the positions of the water jets. To achieve a low engine room profile. 1.3. a reversing gearbox is required. This is important for the stability of the vessel but will also assure that the engine room height can be reduced. Due to the limited design space in catamarans. They are often used in multi shaft installations either as pure water jet propulsion or in combination with propellers as boosters. there is no reversing shaft. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. Geometric Requirements The installation of water jets differs considerably from that for FPP or CPP. flexibility to follow the engine room design is required. In many cases gearboxes with horizontal offsets are used. In most cases the thrust bearing is included in the Water jet system. in those vessels the propeller will be set to zero pitch for engine startup. Due to the fact that the hub of a CPP is larger than that of a FPP. but unlike CPP in multi shaft installations all water jets still have the same rotation direction. For the gearboxes this results in higher ratios. however in some cases the thrust bearing is not included and must be provided in the transmission housing . That means that gearboxes for water jets usually only consist of in. However for smaller vessel or for vessels operating in very polluted waters there is sometimes the request for the possibility to flush the jet. the traditional vertical offset with input above output is changed. Water jets Water jets are very commonly used for speeds between 30 and 45 kn but they can propel a vessel even beyond 60 knots.1.3. The oil supply is usually assured via a hydraulic pump connected to a PTO on the gearbox. (Fig 08) But also the vertical position is important to keep the engine as low in the vessel as possible. ZF Marine GmbH In larger commercial vessels CPP installations do not even have a clutch for engagement. To steer the water jets a hydraulic system is used. Similar to CPP water jets do not require a reversing gearbox. Many catamaran ferries rely on water jets. the propeller outer diameter is usually larger and it therefore runs at slower speeds. 1.

ZF Marine GmbH Fig. 08: Engine room layout for 6 shaft catamaran . Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens.

09: Engine room layout for 3 shaft monohull . Similar to water jets. the reductions for surface drives are usually very low. ZF Marine GmbH Fig. But unlike water jet installations the gearboxes need to be reversing gearboxes and in multiple shaft vessels the propellers are counter rotating. The achievable speeds for small vessels go beyond 70 or even 80 knots. This installation leads to a horizontal and therefore rather high shaft line. Surface piercing propellers Surface piercing propellers are a special type of fixed pitch propellers.4. Trimmable surface piercing propeller systems Trimmable surface drives are directly connected to the vessels transom. meaning high rpm on the propellers. 10: Italian customs interceptor with ZF Trimax Surface drive system There are trimmable and non trimmable versions of the system.4. 1.1. Fig. 1. They were originally developed for sports applications but have soon been adopted for smaller interceptor vessels in navy and police applications. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. .

12: Fast RIB with ZF Ringdrive Surface drive system For the transmission the requirements are similar to those for FPP. Once planing conditions have been achieved. This tunnel is then ventilated. ZF marine two speed gearboxes are designed for automatic power shifting from first to second gear without disconnecting propeller and engine. The tendency of a vessel during acceleration to lift the front of the hull will automatically force the propellers deeper into the water. usually using aluminum housings is demanded. This is especially true if the gearbox is operated in trolling mode. For this reason the ZF Autotroll® system can be calibrated in a way to protect the gearbox from any damage caused by submerged surface propellers. ZF Marine GmbH Fig. in order to run the propellers in a mixture of water and air. the speed at engines idle speed is usually much to high for maneuvering in tight areas. reducing the load on the engine. the gearbox will change to the second gear ratio allowing for full top speed. Therefore these boats are quite often equipped with a trolling system. For extra performance during the acceleration a gearbox with two ratios can be provided. Reversing reduction gearboxes are required as well as often a trolling system. Fig. Trimmable surface drives require some experience to operate. using air or exhaust gases from the engine.2. The torque in that situation can easily exceed 130% of the nominal torque. and a load peak like with the submerged trimmable propellers can not occur. If the propellers are submerged below the waterline. Non trimmable surface piercing propeller systems The installation for non trimmable surface drives is very similar to that of fixed pitch propellers. However for the surface drive system the hull is modified to build a tunnel around the upper half of the propellers. 1. they will considerably increase the load on engine and shaft line. Due to the size and speed of the vessels a light weight and compact design. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. This peak torque can of course cause problems for the gearbox too.4. This gearbox will start with a higher ratio. . In this way the propeller will always run in perfect conditions. 11: ZF Sea Rex trimmable surface piercing propeller system Since most vessels using surface piercing propellers are very fast. In both cases the shaft line is fixed in the hull and usually angled. In this situation the operator needs to lift the propellers out of the water with the hydraulic trim system to run the propellers in their optimum position.

This creates a hump in the graph. 13:Resistance of different hull forms 2. . very slender vessel (VSV wave piercing mono hull) and rigid inflatable boat that are sometimes difficult to categorize. this hump may even exceed the resistance at higher speeds. Additionally the requirement for a low helicopter or working deck may lead to a coaxial or horizontal offset transmission for some government applications.1. Mono hull The majority of all vessels are mono hulls.1. The main difference for the propulsion system between the two categories is their resistance behavior. There are some mix forms such as so called semi displacement. In Yachts for example a huge owners cabin is desired which led to a large population of V-drive gearboxes in the segment of fast Yachts between 15 and 30 meters length. For most planing hulls the resistance curve will have a rather steep beginning and will later flatten out when reaching planing conditions. a very special kind of monohull. other hulls have a different behavior. Geometric Requirements for mono hulls As far as geometry is concerned. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. While the resistance for a displacement vessel generally follows an exponential-curve. However. Fig. Fig. are frequently encountered. displacement and planing hull. There are basically two categories of mono hull designs.1. 14: Yacht layout with V-drive installation However in mono hull vessels all of the variations described in paragraph 1. For hydrofoil.1. ZF Marine GmbH 2.1. machinery is not always the most important issue for the interior designers. mono hull vessels provide the most open design space. Hull forms 2.

for catamaran hulls it is the width of the machinery that needs to be observed closely. or may have a diesel electric propulsion system with diesel generators in the upper hull and electric motors down below. water jets are commonly used. Up to a certain sea state this will allow for higher speeds compared to mono hull vessels of similar size. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. ZF Marine GmbH 2. The torpedo like submerged hulls offer very limited space to the machinery. . 15: Typical fast ferry with 4 water jets 2. 25 meters up to well above 100 meters. While in mono hulls the length of the engine room is often crucial. For two engine installations. The size varies from approx. For multi engine installations however. Depending on the design the SWATH may have a diesel engine inside the cylinders.3.2. Fig. Catamaran Many fast ferries are commonly built as Catamarans. These vessels operate in speeds between 25 and 45 knots. water jets as well as propellers are used. SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) This very special design of vessel considerably reduces the motion of the vessel due to wave motion.

SES (Surface Effect Ship) A surface effect ship is a mixture between a catamaran and a hover craft. . 16: Coaxial gearbox in a diesel-electric SWATH In both cases there may still be a requirement for a gearbox. Fig. since the propulsion as well as the lifting fan engines are usually equipped with transmissions. Since the propeller shaft is located in the center of the hull.4. From a gearbox manufacturer’s point of view this is not a bad idea. these are similar to those in catamarans. 2. This reduces the submerged hull area of the vessel. 17: Step up gearbox ZF 53000NR2B with input (front) below output shaft (rear) The step up version is used for diesel-mechanical propulsion with the diesel engines crank shaft usually below the propeller shaft centre line. Between the twin hulls the vessel maintains an air cushion built up with fans. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. This results in a coaxial or step up (input below output shaft) installation. the gearbox needs to connect the output shaft of the engine with the propeller shaft. ZF Marine GmbH Fig. As far as geometric requirements are concerned.

Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. . ZF Marine GmbH Fig.5. Hydrofoil There are two typical types of hydrofoil vessels. V-drive and Down-angle gearboxes are often preferred for these vessels. 18: SES Mine hunter / sweeper with ZF 4640NR gearboxes 2. 19: Mono hull hydrofoil with ZF 7549 gearboxes Both types have similar requirements as other mono hull or catamaran vessels. mono hull vessels and catamarans with t-foils. Fig. However due to the elevation of the hull.

a gearbox manufacturer has to follow closely all new developments and has to continuously implement new features and strategies into its products. In the future we will see new propulsion systems and hull designs that are currently under development. To meet these market demands. Low wash designs. At the same time navy and other government applications are being conducted under higher commercial pressure. Facing these is a continued task for every designer of marine transmissions. The good price / benefit ratio of todays fast craft transmissions assure the effectiveness and reliability of modern high speed vessel designs. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. new tactical requirements for patrol vessels. Together with the increased demands from classification societies the transmissions have to fulfill a number of tasks. . high speed transport of goods are just some examples for the future. reduction of urban automotive traffic. These will impose new demands for everyone within the industry. ZF Marine GmbH Fig. 20: Catamaran hull hydrofoil with ZF 4650 gearboxes CONCLUSION Modern propulsion systems and the requirements for improved speeds of today’s vessels lead to a variety of installation requirements. Facing these challenges will be the task for all of us.

Norway Fig 18 courtesy of MTU Friedrichshafen. Italy Fig 20 courtesy of Baltic Marine. Modern high speed propulsion systems and their impact on marine transmission design Eric Luetjens. Annone Brianza. Italy Fig 15 courtesy of Fjellstrand AS. Forli. Estonia . Australia Fig 10 courtesy of FB Design. ZF Marine GmbH ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Fig 08 courtesy of Austal. Germany Fig 19 courtesy of Rodriquez Cantieri Navali. Omastrand. Italy Fig 12courtesy of FB Design. Itay Fig 14 courtesy of Ferretti group. Henderson. Annone Brianza.