Large ferries commonly use a dual diesel-powered propeller shaft propulsion, with four diesel engines driving two propeller shafts. In this arrangement, there are twin diesel engines connected to a common gearbox for each shaft.
The gearboxes reduce the medium shaft speed from the engine down to the low-speed drive required for the propeller. The two engines per gearbox are each connected via a clutch, which enables engagement/disengagement to allow either one or both engines to be run as needed, and facilitates reversing of the engine. The application is very demanding on the clutch, which must be compact enough to be integrated into the tight space yet still transmit the required high torques.
A low maintenance and high reliability solution is also important, with ferries typically running to tight schedules and the cost of unplanned downtime being high. The productivity of these vessels is ultimately dependent on the good working condition of the propulsion system – any failure within the propulsion system can impact on speed and manoeuvrability, disrupting the vessel’s schedule and leading to significant commercial losses.
For a major Chinese marine propulsion system manufacturer, developing a suitable gearbox/clutch power transmission combination for a large ferry application was proving a particular challenge. The roll-on-roll-off ferry transports wheeled cargo/vehicles in an enclosed lower deck, while passengers travel on an upper deck, and the size of the vessel demanded a high torque transmission yet in a very compact package, putting especially high stresses on the clutch.
Having investigated and evaluated clutch designs from several manufacturers, the Chinese OEM turned to Stromag.
For this application, wet-running multi-disc KMS clutches were specified, being specifically designed for use in marine gearboxes. The oil-cooled, hydraulically-operated units are used where high torques must be transmitted reliably in tight engine room spaces.
Stromag supplied Model KMS 18000/25 clutches which were integrated and adapted into the gearboxes. Each 635mm diameter clutch has a torque rating of 240,000Nm. Along with meeting the performance requirements and providing a high-reliability solution, all KMS models are also said to be low-maintenance, as any disc wear is automatically compensated by piston travel. Further, they offer a long disc service life, said Stromag.