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Implications of engine power limiters on ships

The Australasian Marine Pilot Institute (AMPI) has published a detailed position paper addressing concerns surrounding engine power limiters installed on ships. Following the rising adoption of Shaft Power or Engine Power Limitation (SHaPoLi/EPL) systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, pilot associations and port authorities worldwide have expressed concern at their implications, particularly for any manoeuvring required in complex pilotage waters.

The paper highlighted a global trend of retrofitting ships with the SHaPoLi/EPL systems in order to comply with the Energy Efficiency Ship Index (EEXI) and Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) requirements set by the IMO. These systems employ various methods, including load-limiting software programs, mechanical governors, or electronic systems, to restrict engine power output and thereby reduce carbon emissions.

One of the primary concerns raised by pilot associations relates to the immediate access to the full manoeuvring power range of the main engine, especially in intricate pilotage waters with multiple environmental factors.

The paper emphasizes the importance of maintaining manoeuvrability. It emphasizes the need for ships to provide up-to-date information on their engine manoeuvring characteristics to pilots, as per IMO guidelines.

Since the adoption of the initial IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships in 2018, there has been a concerted effort to enhance energy efficiency measures in the maritime industry. The strategy includes short-term measures aimed at reducing the carbon intensity of international shipping. These include the EEXI and CII indexes introduced in MARPOL Annex VI.

The EEXI regulations mandate that ships achieve a certain level of carbon intensity by design, with requirements calibrated to incentivize the use of more energy-efficient vessels.

To address concerns have been raised regarding the potential impact of power limiters on a ship’s manoeuvrability, particularly during pilotage operations, AMPI’s paper proposes:

  • Ensuring that the main engine remains immediately responsive to manoeuvring commands during pilotage.
  • Providing pilots with accurate information on engine power limitations and override procedures through updated pilot cards and pre-arrival notifications.
  • Training ship personnel in the use of override functions for engine power limiters and proactive communication with pilots regarding any limitations.
  • Updating pre-arrival information forms used by port authorities and pilotage service providers to include specific queries related to engine power limitations.
  • Implementing additional control measures, such as extra escort or harbour towage, in cases where a ship’s manoeuvrability is significantly compromised.

AMPI’s position paper notes that there is a crucial balance between environmental goals and the necessity for safe and efficient navigation, particularly in pilotage areas that can be demanding.

It said that, by tackling issues related to engine power limiters and adopting the suggested measures, considerable advantages could be gained, including heightened safety measures, improved communication, prompt responses, and reduced risks within pilotage zones.