Audax on support Arctic expedition

Audax, the world’s first polar class heavy transport deck carrier manufactured by the Netherlands-based ZPMC-Red Box company, is sailing on icy water for the world’s largest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project.

The Audax arrives in the Port of Sabetta on Russian Yamal Peninsula after an eight-day voyage from Belgium. With a maximum load of 28,500 tons, the 206.3-meter icebreaker is transporting large modules for the construction of the world’s largest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production project in Yamal. When the project starts operations in 2017, the oil and gas reserves that have been buried under the Arctic ice for millions of years will be ready to be explored and developed by humans.

The Audax is currently one of the only two transport deck carriers in the world that can transport cargo in the Arctic region around the year. Powered by Siemens’ advanced electric propulsion system that optimizes energy efficiency, it plays a crucial role in the construction of this LNG project.

Smashing through ice


As the world’s first polar class heavy transport deck carrier capable of breaking ice up to 1.5 meters thick, the Audax can carry two large 10,000-ton modules at the same time and travel at a speed of 2 knots, or about 3.8km/h, through the ice. The construction of the Yamal LNG project basically depends on Audax and its sister vessel, the Pugnax. Both of them serve by transporting the modules for the project.


From power generation and power distribution to drives, Siemens electric propulsion system helps the Audax handle the daunting challenges posed by the harsh polar environment in a powerful and energy-efficient way.

“The biggest challenge to the electric propulsion system is the instant large torque fluctuations when the vessel is running in ice conditions,” said Erik-John Gerssen, Audax’s chief engineer. “The propulsion motors are specially designed to meet the mechanical stress caused by these high torque fluctuations.” In other words, in the icy Arctic waters where the propeller blades may be confronted with hundreds of tons of impact force, the Siemens propulsion motors can continuously output sufficient power to ensure that the vessel can overcome obstacles and progress smoothly through the packed ice.

In the Siemens electric propulsion system, two 8 MW and two 7.6 MW generators continuously provide stable power to the carrier. The transformers convert the power into voltages suitable for the drive system and other equipment. In addition, the low and medium voltage distribution panels provide safe and efficient power transmission and distribution. The two main propulsion drives and two 12 MW propulsion motors work together perfectly to meet different power requirements during ice-breaking and normal navigation.


“Besides the mechanical aspects of these torque fluctuations, also the electrical effects need to be considered in the power grid. Therefore the propulsion drives are controlled by special software and the power management system is extended with special features to ensure a stable power supply,” Gerssen said.

Audax is equipped with the Siemens Power Management System (PMS). It optimizes power distribution to achieve the highest efficiency and maintain the most economical operating status for the vessel. In extreme situations it distributes the power to critical equipment to ensure the ship’s operating stability.

During the voyage, the operating status of all systems on board, like mechanical equipment and fuel, are constantly transparent and controllable. The Siemens Siship, based on the Totally Integrated Automation (TIA), collects and monitors the operating parameters of each system in real time to inform the captain on the bridge. The integrated Siemens Siship electric propulsion system helps the Audax improve overall efficiency and reliability and reduce fuel consumption, thus lowering operating costs.

If any equipment on the Audax when it is in the Arctic Ocean has problems, Siemens engineers in Shanghai can diagnose these remotely via the Internet, solve problems as early as possible and, in turn, ensure equipment availability and ship safety. The remote diagnosis system mainly achieves two functions: hardware diagnosis and remote software operation interface modification. If the crew detects a problem, Siemens engineers can read the diagnostic information by logging on to their computers.  

“With the remote diagnosis service, problems can be solved promptly. So our customers are satisfied and we are happy,” said Shi Qinghua, team leader of the remote diagnosis service at Oil and Gas and Marine Technology, Process Industries and Drives Division, Siemens Ltd., China.

Over the years, new technologies have been developed and implemented for the polar icebreaker carriers. Siemens pays close attention to development of new technologies and actively provides advanced power systems for the ships. Siemens has followed up on these new developments actively and developed new electric solutions for this kind of vessel. “This project sets a new benchmark for the application of the Siemens propulsion system for polar vessels. Starting with the polar class heavy transport deck carriers, Siemens has implemented state-of-the-art technology to achieve the highest reliability, efficiency and availability. Also Siemens has made new contributions to the exploration and development of resources in polar regions,” said Hu Xiangdong, head of Marine Solution, Process Industries and Drives Division, Siemens Ltd., China.



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