Power Behind the Marine Transportation Industry

Behind most large vessels, there is at least one diesel generator providing the power needed to operate the boat. These generators offer backup power to large ships when they cannot get shore power, when the main power goes out, or in other situations where power is needed. While marine generators may have the same diesel engine found in other types of generators, there are some unique considerations in the marine transportation environment.

Types of Marine Generators

Marine vessel electrical loads can require from 5 kW to 5000 kW generator power, At Worldwide Power Products, we offer marine generator sets with ratings from 50-1500 kW. We also offer marine propulsion engines with ratings from 500 to 2500 horsepower.

If you’re considering purchasing a propulsion engine or generator set for your vessel marine generator for your vessel but are unsure of the power requirements, begin by adding up the all electrical loads. If you find that 750 kW of power covers all the equipment needs of the vessel, look for a generator set in that range. Many well-known power generation manufacturers offer marine generators and engines, including:

  • Caterpillar
  • Cummins Power Generation (formerly Cummins/Onan)
  • Kohler
  • MTU

How Marine Generators Work

In essence, these generators operate similar to their landed counterparts. They provide main and backup power for the vessel just as standby generators provide backup power for an office building when the power grid fails.

Marine Power Generation Equipment Challenges

There are challenges unique to the marine environment these units face, including:

  • Wet or moist environments
  • Cooling systems
  • Accessibility
  • Sound proofing

Generators operate continuously in very harsh marine environments. Over time, a generator that is exposed to these conditions can begin deteriorating quickly. A generator may look fine on the outside, but internally critical operating parts may be deteriorating rapidly. A failure could happen unexpectedly. Bottom line: There is no way to tell from looking at the unit whether it will operate when backup power is most needed.

How do manufacturers combat this disastrous effects of moisture over time? Quality manufacturers begin by using interior components that hold up better in wet environments and are less susceptible to corrosion. Generator insulation systems should be capable of resisting the effects of moisture, salt and abrasion. They should be built to NEMA Class H insulation standards.

Marine generators and engines use different kinds of cooling systems. Small pleasure craft engines and generators can rely on seawater for cooling. Most larger vessels will rely on two main types of cooling systems. Heat exchanger cooling incorporates a shell and tube type cooler. In a shell and tube heat exchanger, the engine coolant is cooled by the transfer of heat to another liquid at a lower temperature, usually seawater. Keel cooling is a simple, effective way of rejecting heat from the engine. In this system, the engine coolant is pumped through lengths of pipe that are submerged under and attached to the vessel.

Land-based generators often have more space around them that seafaring ones, which can make it easier to inspect the unit and perform routine maintenance. When considering a unit for a marine vessel, ensure that there will be adequate space onboard to clean the unit, refuel the unit, and perform safety inspections.

For equipment onboard passenger ships, ferries, and pleasure boats, a quiet operating system is a must. When reviewing specifications, look for units that have a quiet operating system or noise proofing enhancements. For example. marine generators from Kohler may have sound shields that help minimize noise.

From the smallest fishing vessel to the largest cruise ship or transportation ship, generators are a necessary part of ship operations. It’s important to choose a name you trust when looking for a marine generator or engine to support your offshore needs. At Worldwide Power Products, we are proud to offer highest caliber marine generator sets and marine engines and can help you choose the right unit for your needs and obtain financing.