The Ever Given is finally free and able to move under its own power. As it sails out of the way so the Suez Canal can open again, it does so with a colossal 11-cylinder two-stroke diesel engine that’s larger than most houses.
Ever Given is a container ship that is 1,312 feet long and can carry up to 20,124 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). According to Freight Right, TEU is a way to measure a container ship’s capacity using standardized container sizes. According to Marine Insight, Ever Given is only 4,000 TEU shy of the largest container ships in the world. Ever Given is not the largest, but it’s no dinghy, either. It’s no surprise, then, that the engine powering the ship would make a mansion look like a tiny house.
Buried deep inside the Ever Given is a Mitsui–MAN B&W 11G95ME-C9 two-stroke diesel engine. This engine reportedly makes 79,500 horsepower at a slow 79 rpm and is fed by heavy fuel oil or diesel. The engine drives a single propeller hanging off of the back of the ship that propels it to a speed of about 22.8 knots, or 26 mph.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to do all of the lifting by itself as its accompanied by two 3,400-HP bow thrusters to help it get around ports. Its size is staggering. Check out the picture of the 11G95ME-C9.5 above, an engine from the same family.
A selling point for the MAN B&W ME-C series is a compact size and electronic control. It can also run on other fuels like propane, natural gas, methanol or ethane.
In case you were wondering if the alphabet soup of an engine name actually meant something, it does! Here’s how MAN designates its engines:
The most surprising part to me is piston diameter. It comes in at 95 cm, or 3.1 feet. For comparison, the largest engine in the world, the Wärtsilä RT-flex96C, has a piston diameter of 3.15 feet.
While I could not find published figures for weight and size, the World Shipping Council says that cargo ship engines can smash the scales at up to 2,300 tons. Parts like pistons can weigh in at 12,000 pounds. Entire engines are as tall as a few stories and longer than a semi-truck.
Unfortunately, while these engines are absolutely rad, they do come with a big downside. Cargo ships pollute quite a lot, BBC reports. In fact, International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) says that international shipping alone emits as much CO2 as a country, from BBC:
According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), an independent environmental research organisation, international shipping produced 812 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2015.
The ICCT said that if treated as a country, international shipping would be the sixth largest emitter of CO2 in 2015.
But for all of the pollution, these ships carry so much of the world’s cargo. The device you’re reading this on was likely carried on a container ship. Thankfully, pollution is getting reduced as ships are getting more efficient and employing greener technologies.
The Ever Given will hopefully be back on course after its short vacation stuck on the Suez Canal. It looks like the teams freeing the ship more or less freed it in one of the ways that we suggested, too!
Updated 3/4/22 with new details.