Cummins Hotips#659             March 2012

The PSV Betty Pfankuch at the Conrad Deepwater yard in Amelia Louisiana.

The quality and functionality of a working vessel is only proven over time. When one of Aries Marine’s green-design diesel-electric platform supply vessel returned to the US from an nine-month charter in Mexico I was privileged to have a walk through with Chief Engineer Darrell Bickham. Launched from Eastern Shipbuilding in April of 2011, the Betty Pfankuch is a sister to Aries’ Dwight S. Ramsay and one of a growing number of STX-designed Tiger-shark class vessels

Chief Engineer Darrell Bickham with one of the vessel's four Cummins QSK60s.

We started in the engine room located on the main deck just ahead of massive cargo deck. With four Cummins QSK60 DM generator engines each producing 2,547 HP (1,825 kW) direct coupled to four generators. To meet the dynamic positioning (DP2) requirements, the engine room is divided in two with separate switch-gear, control room and engine spaces. Both port and starboard engine rooms are capable of operating independently if required.

The Cummins Eliminator centrifuge oil system

Justly proud of the immaculate engine spaces, Bickham had special praise for the Cummins Eliminator option on each engine. The Eliminator is a combination self-cleaning stacked disc filter and centrifuge housed in a single engine mounted assembly. “I clean it every 500 to 600 hours and the sludge build up is almost nothing,” he said. (See also: )

The bow thruster tunnels are insulated for sound reduction.

The DP2 classification also required redundancy in the bow-thrusters that are two fixed pitch tunnel thrusters with variable-speed 1180 kW electric motors. Bickham pointed out that the tunnels are covered with insulation material to maintain the vessel’s low noise level.

Chief Engineer Darrel Bickham with the mud tanks.

A huge advantage of the diesel-electric system is the flexibility that allows the engines to be mounted on the main deck level making more of the hull available for cargo. Cargo in the hull includes 264,548 gallons of fuel, 667,773 gallons of drill water, 19,406 barrels of liquid mud, and 14,351 cubic feet of bulk mud in 7 round 2050 cu ft tanks.


Electric powered firepumps.

Also in the long hull space are electric powered cargo and fire pumps. The two 500 kW fire pumps have capacities of 1,200 m3 per hour each. The ability to draw power from the main engines to multiple applications is a big asset as is their reliability. “Neither boat lost a charter day during the time we were in Mexico,” Bickham said.

Cables leading aft to the thrusters deminstrate the flexibility in a diesel-electric application.

A long companion way connects the cargo area, which begins just aft of the bow thruster room, and carries an array of large electrical cables aft to the motors in the thruster room.

After eleven months in service the thruster room is as clean as the day the ship was delivered.

In the thruster room a pair of Schottel SRP 2020 FP thrusters provide propulsion with electric motor power. These motors drive fixed pitch props in 19 a kort nozzles to give the PSV a top speed of 14 knots. Bickham explained that typically the boat cruises at ten knots with two of the four Cummins QSK60 engines running.


Aft controls for working under the rig.

Schottel designates their drives as Rudderpropellers which is an apt name for a DP2 vessel and one that has to work in close quarters under oil rigs. From an aft control station the captain can position the after deck safely for the transfer of deck cargo.

Capt. Philip Muhsch on the bridge of the PSV Betty Pfankuch.

The forward navigation console includes an impressive array of screens to show all of the engine and operational features of the vessel as well as providing extensive navigational aides. Capt. Philip Munsch spends a lot of hours in the captain’s chair. Additional vessel handling controls are located on covered bridge wings.


Looking forward over the expansive cargo deck.

Looking forward from the stern, the PSV Betty Pfankuch has an impressive 196 by 56-foot cargo deck. Even on a 292 by 64-foot ship, this is a high percentage of cargo deck area. For additional specs on Aries PSVs see:

For a video with Chief Bickham and Capt. Munsch see:


For more information on Cummins diesel electric:


Elizabeth Lynch

Communications Manager

Cummins Inc.

Charleston, South Carolina

Phone: 843 308 6698

Fax:     843 745 1549



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