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Controllable Pitch Propeller Systems

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Controllable Pitch Propeller (CPP) systems

Wärtsilä Controllable Pitch (WCP) propeller systems provide excellent performance and manoeuvrability, and are recommended for vessels with frequent sailing routes that involve multiple operating conditions. These can be, for example, vessels requiring full power in both bollard pull and freesailing conditions, or that make frequent port calls. WCP propeller systems can also be applicable for vessels that encounter varying weather conditions or demanding operational requirements such as dynamic positioning.

A controllable pitch propeller is often the optimal choice for installations with a shaft generator operating at constant rotational speed. Full propulsion power is available in both heavy and light conditions through an automatic pitch adjustment. Engine overload is avoided regardless of the conditions.

The WCP propeller system is the ideal choice for diesel-mechanic propulsion with both medium-speed and low-speed diesel engines. By integrating a suitable gearbox and Power Take Off/In, the WCP propeller system can be transformed into a hybrid propulsion system that enables:

  • High operational efficiency and flexibility
  • A power boost mode
  • Emergency propulsion power

A Wärtsilä Controllable Pitch (WCP) propeller system is a fully customized combination of a hub, propeller blades, shafting, hydraulics and a control system, as well as any further accessories needed to meet the customer’s needs. Wärtsilä’s hydrodynamic experts tailor the propeller for each application to achieve the optimum balance between fuel consumption and comfort levels as set by the customer.

Wärtsilä Controllable Pitch (WCP) propeller systems deliver excellent performance and efficiency, while minimizing noise and vibration levels.

  • A customised propulsion system tailored according to customer requirements
  • A reliable propulsion solution for dynamic positioning (DP) and ice class applications
  • Available with a pollution free stern tube arrangement
  • The Wärtsilä OPTI Design propeller methodology takes into consideration the full-scale interaction between the propeller and hull, thereby ensuring optimized efficiency
  • Less maintenance and easy installation
  • User friendly and intuitive operations with Wärtsilä ProTouch control panels
  • Increased fuel savings achieved with the EnergoPac, EnergoProFin, Wärtsilä EcoControl, HP nozzle, feathering hubs and OPTI Design
  • Lubrication system available with moisture content monitoring

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

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.”

Read the full story

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).

CPP P&O Ferries story 1

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.”

CPP P&O Ferries story 2

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.”

Around 20,000 vessels in the world are working with Controllable pitch propellers (CPP) and every 4th vessel has a Wärtsilä CPP.

Blazing new trails in Arctic shipping

The Baltic sea is one of the most important trade routes in the world, and even today, at any time, nearly 2000 vessels are operating along this route carrying general cargo, liquid bulk and dry bulk. Over 400 ports dot the different regions surrounding the sea, with at least 90 of these playing a significant role in international trade.

Experts estimate that over 50% of the vessels operating along this route are general cargo vessels, with another 20% being tankers carrying oil. Even the pandemic seems to not have dampened trade volumes with most Baltic ports reporting relatively stable numbers.  But that is not to say that this maritime route does not have its share of challenges.

Read the full story

Any kind of shipping that takes places along this route has to contend with rather treacherous conditions including narrow straits, scattered landmasses and most importantly, ice. The waters of the Baltic sea and the surrounding Arctic regions are usually covered in ice throughout the year, leaving limited windows for vessels to traverse the route safely. 

All this makes shipping in the region a uniquely challenging proposition, with ships having to be designed to special ice-class standards to be able to survive the journeys.

Purpose-built for the Baltic Sea.

The Lady Hanneke is one such ship. Operated by Netherlands-based shipping company Wijnne Barends, the vessels undertakes trips between the Arctic regions of Arkhangelsk in Northern Russia to St. Petersburg, almost always in near-frozen conditions. Needless to say, this requires the vessels to be equipped with features that other vessels do not have. 

“Our normal sailing routes are in Northern Europe and Russia with voyages taking upwards of 9 to 10 days, depending on weather conditions,” explains Roman Bobrov, Chief Engineer of the Lady Hanneke. “There is a lot of ice during wintertime in certain ports especially Arkhangelsk. So, for this, we need to be sure that the ship is built to be ice-class with thicker hulls, rudder and propeller protections. The Lady Hanneke is an ice-class 1A.”

The addition of these extra protections makes vessels like the Lady Hanneke capable of travelling down the Baltic sea, even during winter conditions with icebreaker assistance. However, this also means that the vessel needs extra power to carry the additional weight, while still maintaining speed and efficiency. This is when Wijnne Barends turned to Wärtsilä to solve that particular challenge.

“Wijnne Barends is a very significant client for Wartsila because they operate a fleet in ice-class area and it requires a lot of liability and fuel efficiency,” explains Luuk Hijlkema, Senior Account Manager at Wärtsilä. “This is important because the vessel should be reliable. Also, it is very important, of course, to meet future greenhouse gas norms.”

CPP Merchant story 1

Sailing in eco-sensitive zones
Low greenhouse gas emission (GHGs) are a crucial element for Wijnne Barends especially considering the eco-sensitive nature of the Baltic sea. The region is home to various unique flora and fauna and is governed by some of the most stringent environment norms in the world. Any vessels operating here needs to keep its emissions in check, while ensuring the least possible emissions footprint. 

This is normally a Catch-22 for most fleet owners and operators who find it difficult to balance a reduction in emissions, while ensuring that a vessel is able to maintain its speed. Higher fuel efficiency normally equals reduced speeds which in turn can affect the profitability of a route. Keeping all this in mind, Wärtsilä produced a solution that met Wijnne Barends’ requirements and more.

“The initial request from Wijnne Barends was to develop a solution for a vessel which required by St. Petersburg port authorities for a 2000 kw propeller,” recalls Hijlkema. “However, with our experience of being a complete marine systems integrator, we realised that only half this power was really required.”

“We used an integrated systems approach to develop a complete drive train that would look at all aspects of the vessel, right from engine to propeller, to see how the vessels is being operated and develop a solution that would meet all real-life operating conditions and challenges,” adds Hijlkema.

CPP Merchant story 2

An integrated approach

Wärtsilä’s Controllable Pitch Propeller (CPP) proved to be the best solution to meet these challenges. Its hydrodynamic design allows for improved propulsion efficiency, resulting in improved speed, reduced fuel consumption and better manoeuvrability.

The integrated approach saw the Lady Hanneke being equipped with a host of cutting-edge solutions including the CPP, an eco-mode for the engine to improve fuel efficiency without losing speed, a battery pack to handle different load variations thereby enabling the vessels to deal with constant loads, and a unique gearbox solutions to help improve engine operations and lifetime.

“The most important bit is the eco mode of the engine. The engine is now able to run with reduced RPM, resulting in improved fuel economy. And the results show that running on the booster mode gets fuel economy compared to other vessels with the same tonnage without losing speed,” says Bobrov. 

“It is more flexible because if we need more power sailing in the ice, we can always connect the auxiliary engine for the propulsion.  So, it gives us very good fuel consumption and normally we are trying to use eco mode as much as possible to save the money, save the fuel and save the nature,” he adds.

The result was a huge success. Approximately 45 tonnes of fuel have been saved, along with a reduction of 145 tonnes of CO2 emission per year which is approximately 4% fuel savings achieved compared to other similarly designed vessels. This is on top of the benefits of using a smaller power engine in the propulsion train. 

“The CPP system lets us operate and easily adjust our speed to reach good economy, to reach good time arrival and, of course, during a bad weather and during manoeuvrings,” explains Bobrov.

Wärtsilä’s CPP and other related technologies are now being equipped on the 6 ships that belong to the Lady Hanneke class, heralding a new era for maritime transport and trade in the Baltic sea. 

“We have had good experience from working together with Wärtsilä. They are always there to solve the problems which appear suddenly and they them quick and fast.  So, in my opinion, it is a good team – Wijnne Barends and Wärtsilä,” concludes Bobrov.

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Technical information

Power range starting from 500 kW, no upper limit

  • 4- or 5-bladed propellers starting at a diameter of 1200 mm
  • Bronze or stainless steel propellers
  • Various hub types, depending on the application
  • Compliant with all ice classes.

WCP propeller systems are generally available in three categories:

  • With a reduction gear box and with the oil distribution unit connected to the forward end of the gear box.
  • With a reduction gear box that produces the hydraulic pressure for pitch actuations.
  • For direct drive without a gear box. 
Power range for Wärtsilä standard 4 bladed bronze hubs, without ice class notation

The WCP propeller system can comply with the EPA Vessel Permit 2013 requirements and can be delivered with environmentally acceptable lubricants (EAL). The Wärtsilä stern tube system can ensure zero pollution.

Underwater replacement of the blades, hub disassembly without pulling the shaft, easy installation, reduced maintenance, and a customised efficient propeller design with minimal noise and vibration are further benefits of the WCP propeller system.

Wärtsilä has the unique market position to select various controllable pitch hub principles up to 16 MW. The WCP hub type D is the right solution for light and moderately loaded propellers. The WCP hub type G is selected for vessels requiring a high power or a highly loaded propeller. With these hub types Wärtsilä manages to successfully cover the complete market segments that requires controllable pitch propellers.

    HP nozzle

    Fitting a nozzle increases the thrust at relatively low ship speeds. This allows for significant savings to be achieved in terms of fuel consumption, depending on the number of revolutions and the capacity of the engine. The improved Wärtsilä High Performance nozzle, type HP nozzle, when combined with Wärtsilä propellers, can provide up to 5% more thrust than conventional nozzles in bollard pull conditions. The nozzle profile offers a double profiled cross section at the inlet side of the nozzle.

    The HP nozzle can be combined with either fixed pitch or controllable pitch propeller systems, and are typically installed on heavy duty vessels, such as:

    • Tugs and push boats
    • Anchor Handling Ships
    • Trawlers
    • Dredgers
    • Ice navigation vessels

    and on low speed vessels such as:

    • Inland navigation vessels
    • General cargo vessels

    Feathering hubs

    Feathering propellers are applied to save fuel for multi-functional vessels that operate in such a way that one or two propellers are regularly out of use. The ability to position the propeller blades for feathering achieves less resistance and lower fuel consumption than with a Trailing or Blocked propeller.


    • Double ended ferry With propellers at both the bow and stern of the ferry, the foremost propeller is not in operation during transit.
    • Twin screw vessels Twin screw container or cargo/RoRo vessels operating with one propeller at low speed for longer periods, for example when the sailing route involves both high and low speed operation.
    • Vessels with a booster propulsor Vessels with a centre propeller and wing thrusters have the possibility to operate on only the thrusters when a lower sailing speed is required
    • Vessels with alternative propulsion Sailing cruise vessels or sailing yachts use wind propulsion and feathering propellers to minimise resistance when the mechanical propulsion system is not in use.

    An additional feature of a feathering propeller in a twin screw propulsion layout is the possibility to perform maintenance and overhaul on one of the shafts while continuing operations.

    Ahead propulsion position Ahead propulsion position

    Feathering positionFeathering position


    The Wärtsilä EnergoProFin is an energy saving propeller cap with fins that rotate together with the propeller. This solution provides average fuel savings of 2%, with a payback time of less than one year.

    The propeller’s energy losses are among the factors related to the flow phenomena around and behind the propeller boss. Installing the Wärtsilä EnergoProFin helps to reduce these energy losses and increase overall propulsion efficiency.

    The Wärtsilä EnergoProFin is suitable for all newbuilds and existing vessels. 



    • EnergoPac is the optimised propulsion and manoeuvring solution for ocean going vessels
    • Proven fuel saving technology for controllable and fixed pitch propeller applications
    • Advanced hydrodynamic technology is applied to reduce the vessel’s fuel consumption using an integrated propeller and rudder design
    • Outstanding vessel manoeuvrability made possible in co-operation with Hamburg-based Becker Marine Systems, the market leader for high-performance rudders
    • Improved onboard comfort levels compared to conventional propeller and rudder configurations
    Propeller and rudder

    CPP services

    The solution covers everything from inspections and maintenance to emergency repairs and modernisation or complete replacement of CPP systems. The Wärtsilä service for pitch propellers keeps your installation running smoothly by increasing the reliability while reducing OPEX and ensuring long-term visibility into costs.

    Wärtsilä Controllable pitch propeller services provides a quick, efficient, and cost-effective solution while providing support throughout the lifecycle of your equipment. With our services we can support you with scheduled inspections and unplanned repairs, and help you realise fuel-efficiency gains.

    Read more

    Controllable pitch propeller services

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