The Switch to supply distribution power system for Buquebus’ ropax

2023-10-30T21:54:53+00:00 October 30th, 2023|Technology|

Helsinki-based power electronics specialist, The Switch is to supply a DC power distribution solution, as part of the battery-electric system for the world’s largest fully electric ropax on order for Argentine ferry operator, Buquebus.


The company will deliver The Switch DC-hub, ultra-fast electronic current limiter (ECL) and battery short-circuit limiter (BSCL) protection devices.


Technology group Wärtsilä will provide the specifically designed, fully battery-powered vessel with e-motor driven Wärtsilä waterjets as the main propulsors.


The battery modules and energy storage package is four times larger than on any electric/hybrid ship currently operating, the company claimed.


In addition, Corvus Energy will supply its Dolphin NextGen lightweight energy storage system (ESS), which with more than 40 MWh of energy storage, will be the largest battery system ever installed on a ship.


“We’re very proud to be contributing to this milestone project at a time when marine battery systems are getting bigger and bigger,” says Paul Atherton, The Switch’s General Manager Operation Unit Norway. “The project represents a big leap for the industry, which our proprietary DC-Hub power distribution drives and protection technology are helping to enable. Without our game-changing protection devices, it simply wouldn’t be possible to make battery systems safe on this scale.”


In many cases, DC power distribution in ships is widely recognised as being more energy-efficient than AC systems.


However, DC power distribution needs a different protection philosophy. And, today’s larger batteries require ultra-fast and fail-safe protection to withstand larger battery short-circuit currents. In addition, ultra-fast protection devices reduce the size of the total system by reducing the short-circuit current levels.


As a result, around 10 years ago, The Switch embarked upon designing a robust suite of protection devices to take care of short-circuit faults and ensure the greatest safety.


“Our suite of ultra-fast disconnect devices are specifically designed to guarantee safe DC distribution under all sailing conditions. Our protection devices also help to find optimal and compact solution especially with large batteries. This makes DC increasingly attractive for future-flexibility,” added Teemu Heikkilä, Head of Product Line Converters at The Switch.


For multiple applications, The Switch DC-Hub optimise multi-megawatt DC distribution systems for all marine vessels. The four ultra-fast devices protect The Switch DC-Hubs internal operations, between the DC-Hubs, and to and from the batteries.


The Switch Electronic Current Limiter (ECL) handles faults toward the batteries from the DC-Hub, protecting them from external failure and ensure ride-through.

The Switch Battery Short-Circuit Limiter (BSCL) restricts any short-term current from the batteries, immediately blocking the short-circuit system.


This allows more batteries to be connected to the electrical system and fewer DC-Hubs, making the entire system more compact. It is optimised for the much higher inductance of battery banks that a bus link cannot handle.


The Switch Electronic DC Breaker (EDCB) protects against short-circuit faults inside a DC-Hub and ensures ride-through. This semi-conductor-based device disconnects any failing drive module within 10 microseconds from the common DC link.


The Switch Electronic Bus Link (EBL) connects the vessel’s DC-Hubs and protects against faults between DC-Hubs. The DP3-rated and DNV-approved EBL provides protection outside the DC-Hub by spitting onboard grids in microseconds to isolate any faulty DC-Hub.


The high speed catamaran will be built by Tasmania’s Incat shipyard, which specializes in lightweight aluminium vessels for ferry operators, special service providers and military applications.


With an overall length of 130 m and a width of 32 m, she will be able to carry 2,100 pax and 226 cars on the service between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay across the River Plate.


Delivery is scheduled for 2025.


It was later announced that SSI, the shipbuilding software designer, will supply its ShipConstructor design and modelling solution to Tasmania’s Incat shipyard for the project.

The system has been selected by Incat to support structural modelling for two hull modules of Hull 096, the battery-electric ropax catamaran under construction for Buquebus.

Incat and its partner Revolution Design chose the ShipConstructor system to deliver specific benefits for this complex project, including centralised data management, automation and standardisation of design outputs, 3D visualisation on the shop floor and improved materials tracking.

SSI will also design a digital twin, created from data held within ShipConstructor, to facilitate a clear overview of vessel configuration, supporting efficient operations and lifecycle maintenance.

The electrical system integration is to be handled by Wärtsilä and ESS by Corvus Energy.

Incat is adopting ShipConstructor with the project already in progress, underscoring its belief that SSI can successfully deploy the solution, train and support shipyard personnel at high speed across relevant teams, the Tasmanian builder said.


Incat anticipates that all primary structures of its next shipbuilding projects will be developed using the SSI shipbuilding system.

“Incat has always been an innovator and once again we are demonstrating our approach to advanced technology solutions by adopting ShipConstructor to support this complex project,” said Stewart Wells, Incat’s Technical Manager. “SSI demonstrated an understanding of our challenges and how to effectively manage the design, modelling and data handling processes across all departments and disciplines.”

“Success with complex shipbuilding projects like Hull 096 calls for smarter information sharing across the shipyard, reducing waste and costs and generating a digital twin that can sustain lifecycle operations,” said Simon Crook, SSI’s Solutions Specialist. “This contract lays the foundation for a long-term relationship between SSI and Incat and demonstrates confidence that Incat’s engineers will have success with the new tool in a production environment from day one.”