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Maritime Propulsion

Interview: Mika Koli, The Switch

Posted to Propulsion (by on January 10, 2017

Insights from the maker of an exciting new electrical drive train technology.

  • Mika Koli (Photo: The Switch)

  • (Photo: The Switch)

The Switch is a 10 year old company working to advance the world with electrical drive train technology. It is still a relative new player in the global maritime sector with nearly four years of experience, but its first reference ships with The Switch technology onboard are starting to ply the world’s waterways – including one of MR’sGreat Ships of 2016,” Ternsund. Maritime Reporter & Engineering News met with Mika Koli, Business Development Manager, for his insights on The Switch and its future in maritime.

Concisely describe “The Switch.”
The Switch is a specialist in advanced drive train technology, a manufacturer of permanent magnetic motors and frequency converters. We have been active in this for 10 years, to start in the wind power industry. The company has an installed base of over 11 GW of megawatt-class permanent magnet machine and power converter packages. The main focus areas are wind, marine and special industrial solutions. 

What was the impetus for the start of The Switch?
Wind power has been the main market to date for The Switch, but we have high expectations for the marine market for the future. We have a very promising start, and we see that there are many companies happy to see us in this space.

So how does experience in the wind power market translate to the marine industry?
We have much experience with many turbine manufacturers, and in the wind industry you have hundreds of turbine (references), so you really have to brush up your drive train and focus on efficiency. That has given us excellent background in optimizing efficiency. This is quite a good background for focusing on energy efficient solutions where cost of operations must be minimized. 

Is every solution from The Switch custom created?
Previously we tailored everything, now we want to concentrate on having more efficient ways to work on smaller projects. (ie. moving away from custom design and manufacturing for each project). We want to have product standardization so that we are able to act more quickly, using modules and products that we have and then, with small tailoring, we can offer a variety of products.

Looking at the markets you serve, put the marine market in perspective.
You have to put in perspective that we started seriously in marine about three and a half years ago. Relatively, that’s a short time, but now there are ships with our shaft generators sailing, which is a big achievement for us. But in this short time, we already have approximately 20 ships sold, and it is starting to grow very fast. 

What type of vessels?
The first is the tanker M/T Ternsund, which is powered by a two-stroke LNG diesel.  

If I’m a shipowner, why would I talk to The Switch?
Efficiency, fuel savings, cost of operations … we are able to deliver equipment that will make our customers more competitive.

Most see a difficult maritime market today. Tell us how you see the market?
When times are a bit slower, people and companies tend to have a bit more time to look into new developments. When the industry is going through tough times, regardless of the oil and fuel price being low, especially then you still want to be competitive, and spending less on fuel is a good thing when the price are high or low. With our technology, ships will be future proof, giving ship owners a comparative advantage over competitors when it comes to operational costs. For example, while prices for batteries are coming down, they are not coming down perhaps as fast as some would like. With our system you have everything in place to leverage the benefits of batteries once the prices hits an acceptable.

(As published in the December 2016 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News)