Electrical Propulsion System in Ships

The shipping industry has come a long way as far as R & D for reducing costs of propulsion without increasing marine pollution is concerned. The conventional propulsion system of the ship is efficient but requires high operating costs and increases the marine pollution. Among all the prospective alternate power sources, electrical propulsion system is one of the best tried out alternative in today’s time.

Electrical Propulsion

Understanding the System

The electric propulsion system consists of a prime mover which may be of two types:

Both the systems produce less pollution as compared to conventional marine propulsion system, which involves burning of heavy oil.

The propeller shaft of the ship is connected to large motors, which can be D.C or A.C driven and are known as propulsion motors. Power for propulsion motor is supplied by the ship’s generator and prime mover assembly.

Electrical Propulsion
Credits: yanmar.com

Arrangement or operation

The generator can be direct or alternating current type with diesel or steam driven prime mover, depending upon the requirement or demand of the owner/ship.

In the electrical propulsion system, the direction of the rotation of propeller is governed by either the electrical control of the motor itself or by changing the electrical supply.

Normally variable speed electrical motor is used for fixed pitch propeller system and constant or variable can be used for variable pitch propeller or CPP.

Electrical Propulsion
Credits: nauticexpo.com


Normally electrical propulsion is used in small vessel but now a day shipping companies are adopting this system for big size cargo vessel as well.

Generally electrical propulsion is fitted in

You may also like to read-What is Alternate Marine Power (AMP) or Cold Ironing


Book on Marine Electro technology by H.D. McGeorge

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About Author

An ardent sailor and a techie, Anish Wankhede has voyaged on a number of ships as a marine engineer officer. He loves multitasking, networking, and troubleshooting. He is the one behind the unique creativity and aesthetics at Marine Insight.


  1. hello, I am interested in the issue of ship electric propulsion in the direction you want information on an electric boat gave us a check. With thanks

  2. Adolfo Hannig….Your comment about Marine propulsion from ‘water’ could soon be a reality…contact me if interested for a joint conversation? RogerC-P –

    MD Biomassenergytrading Ltd.

  3. Found the Information exactly what was needed. It was brief and to the point .Thanks

  4. Future belongs to ZFP propulsion, because it is a free energy that is clean and available everywhere in the entire Universe including Earth.

  5. Hi Anish,

    Very informative article. Would love to have a short discussion regarding the future of fully electric ships.
    Let me know if you’d be interested in having a short 10 minute call.

    Warm regards,

  6. Please I’d love to see the calculations showing the power losses from the generator down to the propellers..thanks..Very insightful articles too

  7. I would love to know the analysis of this. So, I know the how it affects marine mechanics and electricians

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