Controllable Pitch Propellers help to P&O Ferries navigate the English Channel

Wärtsilä’s Controllable Pitch Propellers help P&O Ferries navigate the English Channel

3 min read

06 Oct 2020


Wärtsilä Corporation



3 min read

06 Oct 2020


Wärtsilä Corporation



The MS Pride of Canterbury has been a fixture at Dover for the past 25 years. When her owners, P&O Ferries, decided it was time for a new life for the ferry they turned to Wärtsilä.

“With a new car, as a general rule of thumb you use the main dealership and OEM for servicing and maintenance,” explains Wärtsilä’s Ross Murphy, Manager, Product Services, Propulsion. “It is often the same with ships. Many of P&O Ferries' were originally fitted with Wärtsilä equipment when they were built, so now they come back to us for overhauls and service.”

P&O Ferries operates crossings between Ireland, Great Britain and the European continent. P&O Ferries converted two freight ships to also carry passengers, rechristening them as Pride of Canterbury and Pride of Kent. The Project Darwin refit was driven by P&O Ferries’ philosophy of accountability to their customers, trust and social and environmental responsibility.

“I would say the core points for P&O Ferries are safety, reliability, efficiency and the environmental impact,” says Ross. One of the key ways to achieve their goals was to fit the ships with controllable pitch propellers (CPP).

Efficiency through hydrodynamics

“If you stick your hand out of the window of a moving car you can angle your hand differently and feel how the forces change,” Ross says. “CPPs are the same way, except with hydrodynamics. By changing the pitch, you create different levels of thrust to push the water.”

CPP systems provide excellent performance and manoeuvrability and are perfect for ships with frequent sailing routes that can involve multiple operating conditions and frequent port calls – just like Pride of Canterbury and her sister ships.

“P&O Ferries needed the most reliable and efficient equipment for the operating parameters of the vessels on this route,” says Ross. 

Energy efficiency can be boosted due to blade improvement and the EnergoProFin propeller cap, which has fins which rotate together with the propeller. The Wärtsilä EnergoProFin can provide fuel savings of up to 5%, with a payback time of less than one year. Lower fuel usage lowers expenses and environmental impact.

At your service

In addition to providing CPPs for new builds or refits, Wärtsilä also provides CPP services and 24/7 service support. Maintenance needs vary between vessels, but generally, inspections and maintenance are carried out after five and ten years. This includes inspection, cleaning, condition evaluation and preventive maintenance.

CPP services give ship owners a clear estimation of lifecycle cost, a reduced total cost of ownership, access to spare parts and the logistics benefits of Wärtsilä’s global presence.

“Northern Europe contains the highest level of propulsion expertise in the world. These Wärtsilä experts are often called upon by P&O Ferries to assist at the drop of a hat,” says Ross. “The key is maximum uptime. With flexible, fast and high-quality maintenance we can make sure the ships are back in service in the shortest time possible.”

New solutions for old ships

New solutions for old ships

A ship can be in service for decades, so an important matter to consider is out-of-date solutions. When an old piece of equipment comes to the end of its life it takes time to get a replacement. It is critical to minimise the risk of downtime by planning for controls obsolescence.

“We look at the control systems and make sure P&O Ferries has up-to-date and valid control systems throughout their fleet,” Ross says. “Risk mitigation is a large part of any modern business, such as Wärtsilä’s work with P&O Ferries to eliminate controls obsolescence.”

A total system upgrade is often the solution to ensure stable operations and guaranteed spare part availability. This can offer significant savings by reducing fuel consumption and increasing reliability.

The English Channel is one of the world’s great arteries for the flow of goods and people. P&O Ferries alone has over 20 Dover – Calais routes every single day which place specific demands upon their fleet. 

“We work closely with our partners such as P&O Ferries in order to understand their unique needs,” says Ross. “We provide propulsion and other solutions to help them increase safety, reliability, efficiency and profits.”



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