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Electric and Diesel – A Match Made in Heaven for the Commercial Operator

Courtesy of Power and Motoryacht

By George L. Petrie

Rising fuel costs are always a concern.  As a result, achieving improvements in fuel economy has become a high priority throughout the marine industry, as it has in many other segments of business. Engine manufacturers have risen to the challenge, delivering sophisticated new power plants that not only burn less fuel but also produce fewer emissions. However, the fact remains that diesel engines will generally run most efficiently when they’re operating near their full rated capacity.


And that poses a problem for vessels in commercial service. For example, tugboats have big engines to develop lots of towing power but may spend much of their time operating at well below their maximum towing capacity. Or consider that crew and supply boats in the offshore industry must run at high speed to and from oil rigs that may be 100 miles or more from shore, where they then spend several hours idling alongside the rig while supplies and personnel are transferred. And last but not least, there are cruise ships, floating cities with power requirements that vary substantially, depending on whether the ship is in port or underway.

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TCSM – The Controller Tough Enough for the Commercial Marine Environment

As onboard power systems become more sophisticated, so the way that we interact with them must evolve. The commercial operator has a special challenge – finding controllers that are tough enough to withstand the marine environment, yet able to provide important data when you need it the most.

To address these needs, Northern Lights provides the TSCM “Tough Series” marine controller. With a backlit LCD screen and large, easy to read push buttons, TSCM is uniquely suited to the commercial operator’s engine room.

Currently available on Northern Lights commercial units up to 65kW, TSCM puts engine and electrical data at your fingertips. RS485 and J1939 protocols connect to a remote monitoring system. Because simplicity is always welcome in a commercial vessel, monitoring is available through a single data and power cable, up to 30 meters in length.

Northern Lights factory programs TSCM with pressure and temperature warnings and shutdowns to protect your power source. Other standard displays include battery voltage, run hours, operating status and an event log. Additional alarms and warnings can be added to meet your project’s specific needs.

Voltage and current monitoring is available on units 40kW and smaller. ECU codes are read on units from 50-65kW. All units can plug in with no additional adaptors required.

When you think Northern Lights you think simple durability. Our Tough Series of controllers make the industry’s best built products an even better value.

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MARAD Awards $4.9 Million in Small Shipyard Grants

The U.S. Maritime Administration has awarded $4.9 million in grants to support capital improvements at nine small shipyards located throughout the United States.

Made under the Small Shipyard Grant Program the grants will fund a variety of projects including infrastructure improvements and equipment upgrades to increase operational competitiveness and quality vessel construction.

“U.S. shipyards produce what are unquestionably some of the best built vessels in the world,” said Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen. “The grants awarded today will help ensure that ‘Built in America’ remains an international shipbuilding standard.”

In order to qualify for the grants, the shipyards had to meet a number of eligibility requirements. Eligible shipyards must be in a single geographical location, located in or near a maritime community, and may not have more than 1200 production employees. The shipyard facility must repair, construct, repair or reconfigure vessels 40 feet in length or greater for commercial or government use; or reconfigure vessels 100 feet in length or greater for non-commercial vessels.

The requirements for project eligibility include capital improvement projects that foster efficiency, competitive operation and quality construction, repair and reconfiguration. Also considered are training projects that foster employee skills and enhancing productivity in communities whose economies are related to or dependent upon the maritime industry.

Of the 118 grant application received, these nine yards received awards:

  • Gravios Aluminum Boats, LLC of Jeanerette, LA for a big top portable shelter and transporter
  • Chesapeake Shipbuilding of Salisbury, MD for a mobile rough terrain crane and infrastructure improvements
  • Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL for a precision cutting system
  • Marine Group Boat Works of Chula Vista, CA for a gantry crane and metal working equipment
  • Diversified Marine of Portland, OR for boom lifts, scissor lifts and welding equipment
  • Conrad Orange Shipyard of Orange, TX for LNG tank building equipment and pipe welding equipment
  • Yank Marine of Dorchester, NJ for a 70-ton rough terrain crane
  • Yager Marine of Owensboro, KY for a 1,200-ton dry dock
  • American Shipyard Company, LLC of Newport, RI for a 200-ton travelift

As a US-based manufacture of industry-best commercial solutions, Northern Lights congratulates all of the grant recipients.

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As the inland towing market gears up for the implementation of USCG Sub-Chapter M, a number of issues are coming to the forefront for naval architects and marine engineers. With Sub-Chapter M primarily addressing safety and crew comfort, designers are looking for equipment with reduced noise and vibration signatures. Long term statistics show that noise and vibration have their greatest impact on a person during their off time or rest period. This directly affects crew alertness during work hours.


Designers are now going to greater lengths to design vessels with improved vibration isolation to separate the pilot house and living quarters from the deck level machinery spaces. Among the on board systems that have the greatest impact on sound and vibration are the generator sets. Old-time mariners may remember the old diesel engine and generator end packages that shook and rattled even in light-duty applications.


The new state of the art in marine power generation runs remarkably quiet and smoothly. An interesting phenomenon is taking place in the marine generator industry. For many years, yachts builders have sought generator manufacturers with a commercial customer base. The thought process being that power systems built to the heavy-duty requirements of the commercial industry would be reliable and sturdy enough for the ever-expanding number of requirements made by yachts – and their owners.


Increasingly, we are seeing that the inverse is becoming true. Innovations in generator technology that affect on-board comfort are now being required by commercial operators. Such upgrades may include vibration-reducing isolation mounts, structural steel base frames and even sound enclosures. In addition, shifting emission standards are driving the need for engine add-ons such as turbochargers, advanced fuel injection systems and controls.


Interested in learning more about the state of the art in marine power technology? Contact Northern Lights Gulf at (504) 360-2180 or visit our web site at www.northern-lights.com.

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Analyzing You Load: Ensuring Generator Longevity For The Commercial Operator

When it comes to the selection of a generator set, a number of factors should be considered, and none more important than a thorough and accurate load analysis. In general, the continuous load should be at least 50% of the generator capacity.


The right generator is determined by the total wattage of all equipment that will be operated simultaneously. Selecting a generator that is too small for peak load can make it hard to start motors in high-draw equipment, such as air compressors, winch motors and even air conditioners.   Selecting too large of a generator causes the engine to operate in an under-loaded condition. This leads to carbon build up in the injector and valves, and the potential pumping of raw fuel into the exhaust (“wet stacking”.)


Equipment that uses an electric motor can require up to ten times the running wattage during start up. A good rule of thumb when computing motor loads is to take the running wattage of the largest motor and multiple it by ten. Then add the running wattage of the smaller motors, as well as the wattage of all the other loads, to determine the total load required for those appliances. Sequential starting is a good policy. Start the largest motor loads first, and it will help with starting the smaller consumers.


Balancing loads is of critical importance. All loads which will be used at the same time must be divided up equally among the output phases. For example, don’t put heating loads on one phase and air conditioning loads on the other phases. Improperly balanced loads may cause a loss in voltage on the loaded phase and excessive voltage on the unloaded phase, as well as low output.


Interested in learning more about the state of the art in marine power technology? Contact Northern Lights Gulf at (504) 360-2180 or visit our web site at www.northern-lights.com.