Engines latest research vessel Belgica of ABC

Ghent based engine company ABC supplied the 3 engines of the new Belgian research vessel Belgica that will berth in Ghent in September.

In September this year, Ghent becomes the godfather of the brand-new Belgian research vessel Belgica. The City seizes this title to maximize its assets as a knowledge and port city. However, the sponsorship is also a crowning glory for the work of the Ghent company Anglo Belgian Corporation (ABC). The engine builder from Ghent, which is known worldwide, supplied three powerful and durable engines for the Belgica. We set course for the Wiedauwkaai for a conversation with Tim Berckmoes, CEO of ABC.

Few people know that ship engines are built in Ghent. How long have you been doing business in Ghent?

"ABC has existed for more than 100 years. Since 1912 we have been working as a Belgian engine builder from the Wiedauwkaai in Ghent. Today, we are a leading player on the international market thanks to our state-of-the-art production and test facilities. And we continue to expand. We recently bought the northern part of the Vynckier site in Ghent, which is about 5 ha. We are developing this site into a hotspot for energy transition with hydrogen as one of the energy carriers. The fact that we do new developments, CNC production, assembly and testing on the same site is a huge advantage in terms of communication, maintaining know-how and short lead times for our customers."

Let's turn the compass to the brand new research vessel Belgica. The ship will set sail from the autumn for scientific research into, among other things, the impact of global warming and better protection of the environment. Are the engines in the Belgica also sustainable?

"Of course. ABC builds engines according to the strictest emission standards. The Belgica complies with the latest IMO III regulations for maritime shipping. For example, a catalytic converter has been built into the engines that reduces the emissions present. In this way, NOx emissions are reduced to virtually zero. The Belgica has three engines, good for 5,155 kW or more than 7,000 hp. They are fully acoustically damped and double elastic so as not to generate any vibrations or noise in the water. In this way, they do not interfere with the hyper-sensitive measurement recordings in the ocean. We have also developed a whole range of hydrogen-powered engines that no longer emit any CO₂."

Clearly a company with a heart for the climate. Are your sustainable engines also used in other sectors?

"ABC's engines are used today in various fields: in dredging, in trains, in cruises, in inland waterway vessels, for power generation, and even for emergency power generators and power groups on Asian islands. So the applications are very diverse."

Besides the ideal location close to North Sea Port, what are the advantages of doing business in Ghent?

"Ghent is a unique historical city that is bubbling over with energy and has enormous potential in terms of human capital. The presence of the UGent and the various quality colleges ensure that we have employees who combine technical talent with good language skills. Furthermore, the Ghent city council is very proactive towards companies and supports entrepreneurs on a daily basis. In Ghent, there is also a large support base for investors and entrepreneurs. A good dialogue and dynamics between the various local stakeholders also leads to a great deal of trust among shareholders."

Does ABC work a lot with other companies or organisations in Ghent?

"For innovation, we often work together with UGent. For example, we have just invested 3.5 million euros in a Single Cylinder Testbench to test prototypes and we are building up information to optimise a digital twin model. The connection with North Sea Port is also very important. As an engine builder, we can offer solutions to reduce CO₂ emissions, both in the port, on the railways and in inland navigation. In addition, ABC has many business partners in Ghent such as transport companies, component suppliers and various service providers. ABC actually reinvests the entire cash flow on its site every year, returning the money to the Ghent and Belgian economy."

What are ABC's future plans?

"You wouldn't believe it, but despite the corona crisis, we received a very high number of orders in 2020. For example, we won important contracts for the supply of new 10 MW emergency generators and we won the tender for the 12 Belgian and Dutch minehunters with three ABC engines per ship. In terms of research, we focus on new modular high-tech engines for new fuels. This gave rise to the joint venture BeH₂ydro, a collaboration between ABC and the shipping company CMB from Antwerp. Both companies are committed to the research and development of hydrogen engines. We will of course also be present when the Belgica moors here in Ghent in September."

Bright prospects on the horizon. Have a good trip with the Belgica and ABC!