FROM its creation three decades ago to its market leading position in shipping today, the Azipod® propulsion has revolutionised marine transport.

First seen on the Finnish icegoing vessel Seili in 1991, the electric propulsion system has clocked more than 20 million running hours at an impressive availability rate of 99.9%, while saving about 1,000,000 tonnes of fuel in the cruise segment alone.

According to maker ABB, more than 25 different vessel types rely on Azipod technology today, from cruise ships to cargo carriers, icebreakers, ferries and superyachts. In total, ABB has sold over 700 Azipod units globally.

With the electric drive motor housed within a pod outside the ship hull, the Azipod system can rotate 360 degrees, increasing maneuverability and allowing even the largest vessels to dock in harbors where turning circles are restricted.

It also improves operating efficiency, boosting a ship’s hydrodynamic performance and cutting fuel consumption by up to 20% when compared with a traditional shaftline setup. Space saved by locating the motor outside the ship allows for more flexible design and frees up space for cabins, cargo or other features.

Azipod propulsion was initially designed as a future-proof system able to adapt to virtually any energy source. With the electric drive motor at its core, the Azipod system can be powered by electricity drawn from different energy sources including batteries and fuel cells, and shipowners can add or exchange power sources as they evolve.

Björn Rosengren, CEO of ABB, said, “ABB has played a pioneering role in electric transportation for more than a century.

“The launch of the Azipod technology in 1991 marked a new era in ship propulsion and has firmly established ABB’s contribution to reducing the environmental impact of the maritime industry.

“I am convinced that this state-of-the-art technology will continue to play a major part in supporting our role as a front runner in sustainable transportation.”

An independent study in 2019 showed that Azipod propulsion could help ferry owners save $1.7m in annual fuel costs per vessel while cutting CO2 emissions by approximately 10,000 tonnes.