Air system on trial

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

15 March 2016


ShipInsight’s first edition of the Journal last Spring included a feature on air lubricated ships. Yesterday one of the vessels mentioned in that feature – the 124,000gt AIDAPrima, the first cruise vessel to feature the technology – was handed over by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagasaki, Japan. AIDAPrima is however not the first passenger ship to feature the Mitsubishi Air Lubrication System (MALS) as that honour goes to the Japanese ferry Maminoue. The technology has also been installed on heavy lift ships and a bulk carrier. How it will contribute to fuel savings for AIDAPrima’s owner Carnival subsidiary AIDA Cruises remains to be seen but it is another example of how passenger vessels can be leaders in innovation. The MALS system is not the only unusual feature of the ship for it also features a dual-fuel propulsion system. Its environmental credentials are boosted by the ship’s exhaust gas cleaning system which is now becoming a common feature on cruise ships. There is something of a risk in initiating innovation on high profile passenger ships. Podded propulsion systems were notorious for experiencing teething troubles and gas turbines on some ships were replaced in 2008 for economy reasons. But pods have come through their initial problems and gas turbines too are also being given a second look. If the MALS performs well then it can be expected to attract other potential users, if it does not then at least the concept has been tried. AIDAPrima will be christened in May as part of its home port of Hamburg’s historic 827th anniversary celebrations. That is something that was not in the owner’s original plans as the ship is a year late in being delivered, well past its March 2015 schedule.