Go east, young man, go east: Scania’s market reach grows with a key workboat contract. The reasons why are easy enough to see.
When Scania announced its recent deal with Potomac Riverboat Company, part of the Entertainment Cruises family, to deliver eight, EPA Tier 3, 500 HP DI 13-liter engines in 2017 to power its high-speed, low-wake water taxis in Washington, DC, it marked the beginning of what is so far a good year for the San Antonio-based engine manufacturer. The 88-foot vessels will carry 149 passengers and will be built by Louisiana-based Metal Shark, to specifications from BMT Designers and Planners.
The deal not only represents a significant number of individual engines, but more importantly for Scania, it cements the firm’s toehold in the red hot domestic ferry sector. Today, as much as 40 percent of Scania’s North American marine engine sales are made into the fisheries markets. Those markets, like the ferry sector, are also seeing boom times. Alberto Alcalá, Scania’s Sales Manager for Marine Products, told Marine News in February, “A lot of people are making investments into new boats and repower jobs [in the fisheries sector]. Some estimates up in the northeast put the wait to build a hull now up to two years.”
As for Scania’s market penetration, Alcalá explained, “East Coast sales – we’ve had others but in the passenger vessel market, we’ve had a lot more success on the West Coast. What’s important to us is this is new construction, not repowers. We love doing repowers but we’ve been trying to show off our ability to support the builders, the naval architects and the operators. We’ve had good success with our distributors and setting up dealers.” As it turns out, that’s exactly what tipped the scales for Scania on their latest sale.
Potomac Riverboat Company and Entertainment Cruises run a combined fleet of 38 boats in a wide range of cities, including New York, Chicago and Boston, offering dining cruises, sightseeing tours, private charters and water taxi services. “We chose Scania USA to provide the main propulsion package for the new water taxis for a variety of reasons,” said Bob Lawler, Entertainment Cruises VP Marine Operations. “Scania is able to meet our size, horsepower and weight requirements in a very fuel efficient and affordable package, which combined with Scania’s outstanding customer service we feel we have the perfect partner for this project.”
Alcalá added for emphasis, “They did their due diligence, research and talked to a lot of builders, architects and operators to learn more about Scania. When they understood what we could and would provide in help to everyone in the chain, that’s when they pulled the trigger.”
Scania’s marine engine platform today includes a complete range of 9-, 13- and 16-liter benchmark engines for both propulsion and auxiliary applications. From propelling fast patrol craft to pushing heavy river barges upstream, there is a likely a Scania marine solution for any workboat application. Scania engines are available in EPA tier 3 ratings up to 900 hp, and the firm has also launched a range of IMO tier 3 engines for Canada.
According to Scania, marine engines must be compact, have easy-to-fit auxiliaries and be designed for easy servicing. But, for Scania’s fishing customers, reliability is the key. Speaking to his fisheries clients, Alcalá says, “They think it is bulletproof, the design is simple, the marinization is fantastic. It’s not an afterthought, as it might be with other engine brands. The displacement is the perfect size – we have 13 and 16 liter displacement. The power to weight ratio is phenomenal. The torque helps the guys get out of the water quickly and they are very, very fuel efficient.”
Looking closer, that reliability stems from a simple design philosophy, one which employs a modular block design that – even over the breadth of three sizes – employs as much as 30 percent in parts commonality. And, because so many parts are common to each engine, that means Scania rarely is out of stock on any part, when the customers come knocking. Alcalá reported that a recent internal ‘parts availability’ survey revealed that more than 98 percent of their parts were always in stock. In a business where time is money and down time drains the bottom line, that’s a key metric.
The modular commonality comes into play in other ways, as well. Because the Scania line is so similar, mechanics who are qualified to work on one engine will find that they can provide service to all; the 9-, 13- and 16-liter versions. And with the “one hole for each head” design, each with just three bolts per valve cover, mechanics changing out one liner don’t have to pull the entire head; an enormous time savings for operators. Any engine OEM will tell you that the fewer times the head has to be pulled and human hands inserted into the equation, the less chance there is for mechanical problems down the line.
Saving weight is the obvious way to reduce fuel consumption and increase performance of any planing vessel. Thanks to the superior power-to-weight ratio and compact dimensions of the Scania marine engines, boat designers have great opportunities to optimize operational efficiency and profitability. Alcalá adds, “Comparing us to our competitors in the 13 liter range, for example, our engine is a lot lighter for the same horsepower so just by definition, that’s more power to weight.” For operators, this advantage – several hundred pounds – translates into more passengers and/or cargo per voyage and/or the ability to carry a larger fuel load which in turn allows for greater endurance. In the passenger vessel sector, and taking into account the Coast Guard’s new and heftier passenger weight assumptions, this metric is especially important.
At a recent show in Canada, Scania showed its IMO Tier III solution, which uses SCR. Featuring documented reliability, fuel efficiency and operating economy, the new IMO Tier III engine range produces significantly reduced exhaust emissions with proven SCR emission control technology developed in-house. Compact design, unlimited adaptability and standard interfaces allow easy installation and seamless integration irrespective of application. Alcalá explains, “IMO Tier III is going to be our basis for U.S. EPA Tier IV. Right now, now Tier IV isn’t in effect until October 1 of this year for our HP ranges that we operate in (less than 1,000 kW).”
As the year begins, Alberto Alcalá finds himself all over North America, touting the Scania brand. But, that’s part of a well planned, concerted effort to boost that market awareness. That’s not to say Scania hasn’t been around this side of the pond for a while. They have. He explains, “I just last year was in Canada where an operator acquired a vessel that had 40-year old Scania engines on board. But, it’s been in the last nine years that there’s really been a more distributor and dealer focused plan to renew and strengthen our marine market presence. More recently, we just sold three engines into Canadian fishing boats. And, we had a dealer taking another engine for stock.” He continues, “Fishing vessels are our strong point right now, but passenger vessels are not far behind. With the Entertainment Cruise / Metal Shark order, I think it won’t be long before passenger vessels will rival our fishing boat sales.”
As for the workboats markets, especially on the inland side, Alcalá concedes that he has his work cut out for him. That said, he adds, “The workboat market is slow – not just for us but for everybody. That said; we secured just recently an order for two engines in that market, which is a positive trend.”
Scania today manufactures a wide range of truck, bus, marine and industrial engines. A true propulsion pioneer, the company employs approximately 42,000 employees with an annual turnover of $11 billion. Last year, it celebrated its 125th year in the business.
2017, says Alcalá, “has so far been a great year for Scania. It certainly has started out well.” With a powerful, lightweight and fuel efficient line-up of modular marine engines, that’s a good place to be. Already strong in at least two sectors and on the West Coast in general, the firm is looking to accomplish more. When they do, the compass is pointed east.
(As published in the March 2017 edition of Marine News)
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