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Servogear AS19 Oct 20234 min read

Future of propulsion technology: How to stay competitive in 2030

Future of propulsion technology: How to stay competitive in 2030

When you are looking to the future, it is easy to be blinded by the potential of new technology. However, more revealing than the hardware itself,  is the considerations, design-principles and approach underpinning them.

True Innovation is much more than a "new thing that does the job better than the previous thing". Innovation applies to how we operate, not just the tools we utilize to get the job done. Nobody can see the future, but we can make some educated guesses on trajectory and impact.

In this article we will look at current technologies and trends and how they might evolve in the coming 5-10 years.


Download: How to run a performance review on your vessel


Brute force used to be enough, but..

Historically, efficiency has not been at the forefront. That your propeller or drivetrain were not optimally efficient wasn’t that important. Diesel was cheap and a bigger engine to reach desired production capacity would not affect your payload significantly. Cost of inefficiencies was fairly inconsequential.

While we are seeing a shift towards green energies and alternative fuels, like methanol, ammonia and hydrogen, the true innovation has just begun. One of the key innovations derive from digitization. Access and capacity to obtain and analyze data, from an expanding range of sensor and systems across your vessel, may change how we approach operational models all together.

Data from your vessel(s) and operation, and the insights it can provide, may even clarify, with numbers, one of today’s big misconceptions: Low to zero emissions equals high efficiency.


New technology lacks specifications

First, let’s look at how purchasing of a vessel is approached. A customer, like a shipping company, has a set of specs outlining budget, payload capacity, desired power system to meet emission regulations and tax incentives, volume requirements etc.. Even though the operational cost of the vessel is of the utmost importance for an operator, key details that impacts efficiency, a major factor of OPEX, is often left to the yard or shipbuilders to resolve.

And here lies a challenge. A more efficient system will reduce your OPEX but increases CAPEX as it requires more sophisticated technology. The vessels OPEX is of little-to-no consequence for a yard working on a fixed commission.

With clear cut data of what impacts your operation in the long-term, we can expect both shipping companies and yards becoming more conscious of efficiency.

Read more: The Most Valuable Energy Is The One You Do Not Use


software optimisation

There are many attempts to “solving efficiency” using software optimisation. And even though power management is important, there is no button for “optimise performance”. It requires large amount of case-specific data, which must be collected, analysed, and implemented across multiple systems.

More and more ships are seeing digitalisation, but the infrastructure and supporting tools are still in their infancy. With the advent of accessible high-speed internet uplink and AI analytics tools we relieve the need for highly educated staff analysing the increasingly complex operational data. We expect consequently a more conscious market. Such collection and analysis will be standard procedure in the near future, especially considering the increasing sophistication of hybrid/electric power and propulsions systems.

This will also apply to local regulatory bodies and classification societies, where you can expect more specific technical requirements for tax-incentives and/or system approval. One mode of this might already be glanced in today´s automotive industry.


Read more: How To Limit Downtime And Cost With Proper Maintenance On Your Vessel


A holistic approach to optimisation

Once shipping companies and operators gain a more holistic view of their fleet and vessels, this will also apply to optimisation of efficiency. The solution for making a ship green and efficient isn´t done by single component or system. With a concrete foundation of data informing decisions, a focus on key hardware-system’s performance over time will become commonplace. Optimisation can (and should) start at the design-stage and initial spec’ing of the vessel.

Results won´t be truly 'optimal' without efficient quality components, like sophisticated power and propulsion designs, hull geometry and light-weight components, like seats, gangways, and deck equipment. Good mechanical hardware is software agnostic.



With an increasing amount of information on your vessel and operation, accessible to both designers and decision makers, we can expect to see a more conscious and holistic approach to commissioning, construction, and design.

A clear-cut view of your operation over time might even correct the misconception of “low/Zero-emissions equals efficiency”. This will in turn introduce new requirements and specifications for yards and shipbuilders, making a vessels hardware and long-term performance more central from the commissioning stage.

As we become more informed of what impacts efficiency and emissions, new opportunities will emerge. Advanced software optimisation will improve efficiency of both your vessel and operation. Furthermore, it solidifies the need for quality components and enforces optimisation as part of the vessel’s design.

While we can only speculate on what the future holds, we can count on efficiency playing an increasing important role in an industry about to pivot away from fossil fuels and towards greener energies.



Servogear AS

Servogear is a leading manufacturer of Controllable Pitch Propeller Systems for high-speed workboats, fast ferries, offshore vessels and yachts. Our tailor made solutions provides our customers with a unique combination of speed and thrust.