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Superior Lifetime Operation Economy of Ship Propellers

As a response to the continuous increases of fuel prices and the hydrodynamic penalties of ageing ships belonging to the project ship owners, Pescanova and Ocean, SUPERPROP will develop an easy-to-use updating strategic-costs assessment tool, indicated for fishing and tug vessels already in operation. This tool will address a range of hydrodynamic ageing causes.

Tags: Water


Many old fleets are currently operating without having updated the propulsion designs to new working conditions. Propulsion efficiency decays as time elapses inducing a rise in fuel consumption, contaminant gas pollution, engine maintenance costs and vibrations while the ship’s capabilities decrease. Fishing and tugboat fleets are the largest fleets of boats operating all over the world; from the smaller boats sailing near the coast to large trawler vessels, there is a wide range of fishing vessels crossing the seas. The average operating lifetime for these kinds of vessels can be estimated at around 25 years. Since they are used to work in two different conditions (fishing and sailing to and from port and searching for fish), the design of the propulsion is conditioned by these different working conditions. With time, propulsion becomes less and less efficient. Using an appropriate economic knowledge of the actual situation of such fleets it is possible to estimate the feasible cost reduction in fuel consumption and maintenance, as well as gas emissions and vibration phenomena. Economic tools together with engineering tools will be developed for the systematic updating of the propulsive (propeller and stern area) system to the new optimum working point in order to reach the main aim of the proposal. A standard methodology for this updating procedure will be the main outcome of the project.


The project is focused on developing maintenances strategies, in regards to ship hydrodynamics, and assess their costs in order to update the propulsion system of the targeted fleets (fishing vessels and tugboats) to their new working conditions after years of operation. Improvements in fuel consumption rates and reductions in maintenance costs are expected.

The other SUPERPROP objectives are:

  • to increase the knowledge about the state of the art in old ships’ propulsion and their ageing process
  • to use the knowledge in correlation methods to extrapolate results obtained from model testing to full-scale
  • to apply CFD codes to predict propeller behaviour, to collate computational and model testing results, and to estimate the prediction accuracy of both methods
  • to study the economic profitability of old fishing and tugboat fleets and the savings that could be reached in fuel consumption, maintenance costs and contaminant gases emission by optimising the maintenance strategy from the hydrodynamic point of view.
Fishing vessel Ila, a SUPERPROP test case
Fishing vessel Ila, a SUPERPROP test case
Pescanova, S.A.

Description of work

First, a review of fishing and tugboat technology and operation economy of the owners’ fleet will be performed. Information from the real situation of old ships’ working conditions (economic and technical) will be collected. The new ship design condition is not valid from a redesign point. Hence, flow around the selected vessels, reproducing the full-scale measurement conditions will be simulated in order to have an improved estimation of the propulsive coefficients for the updating activities to be performed.

The designs will be done by different partners and optimum solutions will be taken into account for model testing. A generalisation of the obtained results will be done in order to use them for ship owners in other cases. Model testing activities will be carried out in the different facilities of the consortium. The aim of these activities is to assess more accurately the performance of new designs and redesigns before full-scale manufacturing. Full-scale trials aimed at getting real-scale data from the study cases will be performed. Once the modifications have been put into practice, another series of trials will be carried out in order to check the improvement of the performance.

Analysis activities will be done by studying the decrease with time of the propulsion efficiency in the test cases and the eventual rising after the updating activities. The manufacture of new designs or the modification of old ones will follow in time. Activities related to updating criteria, generalisation of results, as well as presenting the technical results of the project in an easy-to-use form, are the last tasks to be accomplished.


The main output of the project will be a techno-economical model, which will permit the devising of maintenance strategies for tug and fishing vessels already in operation, taking into account a range of ageing effects. An indirect result will be a reduction of fuel consumption, which is associated with fewer costs and less gas emissions. The results that will be obtained from SUPERPROP focus on sustainable development. Most of the high-power thermal engines are working in ships, so the aim of improving the efficiency in this field is clearly an important factor to be considered in the contribution to air pollution.

The improved knowledge of the decreasing performance over time of a vessel’s operating life will help in the first stages of this project. Therefore, SUPERPROP contributes to the ‘Advanced design and production techniques’ objective. This will mean a benefit for European shipping within the shipbuilding, supplying industry, consultancy and fishing industry sectors. Concentration on advanced propulsion design, which relies on technology development, will enable the industries to stay competitive.

Tug vessel Val, a SUPERPROP test case
Tug vessel Val, a SUPERPROP test case
Ocean S.r.L.