What does BoB do?
- Two-stroke marine engines need two main kinds of lubricants to function: system oil and cylinder oil. Cylinder oil is burned off rapidly and requires a constant feed of new oil, while system oil is recirculated and must be kept clean and is regularly replenished with new system oil.
- ‘BoB the blender’ will reduce the total lubricant consumption by 20% by collecting the used system oil from the vessel’s main engines and blending it with an additive.
- The properties of the blended cylinder oil are adjusted for each vessel, engine type, etc. to create custom-made cylinder oil on board the vessel.
- The end result is a cleaner engine with less wear over time and a 0.5% increase in fuel efficiency.
Therefore, Maersk Oil Trading, Maersk Maritime Technology and Maersk Line decided to pursue their own solution. They proceeded slowly to allow sufficient hours for research and testing and to meet the safety and operational requirements of the engine manufacturers as well as of Maersk Line’s own vessels, which were used as laboratories.
A start-up struggles to start
The research and testing of ‘BoB’ were slow by design; the rest of the process was not. While a viable product moved closer to production, important questions were emerging about the governance of Maersk Fluid Technology, the intellectual property strategy, funding, and other legal and tax related issues. With no official support structure in place for this kind of project, these issues proved time-consuming to resolve.
“We knew we would end up with a product and a company, but the question of how best to pursue the development of both at once was a complicated task and we were feeling our way, as best we could, while carrying on with our ‘other’ jobs”, recalls Lindegaard.
The paperwork involved turned out to be just as time consuming as the product trials – and just as significant. For example, a friendly discussion with a large oil company and prospective partner early in the process turned out to be a costly lesson about the timing of patent filings.
BoB nearly gets the boot
One of the first iterations of BoB arrived in 2007. One of the collaborating partners, Maersk Line, became the first customer by ordering 21 units. Within the next 12 months, the global economy began to crash and Maersk Line had to cancel all non-business-critical projects. With only 21 BoBs sold, Maersk Fluid Technology was put on ice and soon after prepped for sale.
Fortunately for everyone, Maersk Fluid Technology was not sold. Instead, Jens Byrgesen joined as Managing Director and fought to keep the company up and running together with Technical Manager, Henrik Weimar, and the company’s former partner, Maersk Line. A course of new tests even proved BoB’s other benefits, i.e. those of reduced engine wear and improved fuel efficiency, adding significantly to the market value of the product and the overall value of the project in the process.
“If we take the technical knowledge we gained from the journey we have been on with Maersk Fluid Technology, it is quite impressive; the process was not. With the new Innovation Board, good ideas will get the structure, funding and commitment they need if they are to succeed in creating results”, says Lindegaard.