Retrofittable Air Lubrication Systems for Marine Vessels

Imagine the impact of a
10-15% reduction
in fuel consumption, emissions and fouling

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Our Vision

For the benefit of our children.


The world is dependent on an intertwined logistical network to move goods and products from manufacturers to consumers in an efficient and timely manner.

The shipping industry is the backbone of this system, moving well over 80% by volume and 70% by value of global trade, with a fleet of more than  6,100 liner ships of all sizes and configurations, sailing on all major waters. We owe much of our welfare to the shipping companies and the sailors on board of these ships.

The global climate drive to reduce carbon- and other emissions and adopt greener technologies has been welcomed by the shipping industry: many innovative projects have been initiated and implemented by it.

However, the rate of change in green technologies is putting increasing pressure on the shipping industry, both financially and technologically. Retrofittable, modular solutions are increasingly required, as multiple  technological advances may happen over the  lifespan of a vessel.

The vision of Marine Bubble Flow is to develop and offer innovative solutions that optimise the operational and environmental performance of the Shipping Industry. We will enable ship owners and fleet managers to retrofit their existing fleet with cost-effective technologies and solutions to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, ultimately aiming to benefit our children and future generations to come.

Marine Bubble Flow, the drag reduction company: making large ships glide through water on air bubbles, reducing fuel, emissions and fouling.

Marine Bubble Flow, the drag reduction company: making large ships glide through water on air bubbles, reducing fuel, emissions and fouling.


The Concept.

Source: NASA

Source: NASA


It all started when…

The fluidic technology that the Marine Bubble Flow air lubrication system is based on was developed for NASA in the 1960s. Fluidic technology relies on the viscous properties of gasses and fluids to create smart devices without any moving parts, that can control and switch flows. The thinking behind the MBF system is that if a ship's hull can be covered with air bubbles to provide lubrication, friction or drag will be reduced and fuel saved. It is a simple and appealing idea particularly when fuel prices are rising due to political and regulatory pressure to reduce emissions such as the European Union Sulphur Directive which stipulates a maximum 0.5% sulphur content for ships in all EU waters by 2020.

The costs to the shipping industry of complying with this directive are huge. The shipping industry consumes an estimated 4% of global fossil fuels and produces 2.5% of global GHG emissions. Every percent saved on emissions and fuel use has a big impact on the fleet operating cost.

The challenge of air lubrication lies in scaling up the results from controlled model testing in towing tanks to large scale, real life operating conditions. To date the prevailing method of Air Lubrication Systems providers has been to make a large number of holes in the bottom of a ship and pump air from surface to create a layer of air bubbles underneath the hull. Net drag reduction levels of between 2-12% have been measured. Net fuel savings of around 5% were reported with this approach. Alternative methods, using Air Cavities, have been tried on inland barges, but the net efficiency gains are still to be independently validated. However, both methods breach the integrity of the ship's hull, which introduces additional cost and complexity on, for example, double-hulled tankers.

Marine Bubble Flow B.V. has solved the scaling issue without requiring alterations to the ship's structure. The potential efficiency gain is expected to be significantly higher at 10-15% than with  current ALS systems offered, particularly for large vessels with flat bottoms, such as container ships, LNGCs, Ro-Ros etc.


The Technology.

MBF Arrays are attached to the outside of the vessel, and require no structural modifications to the hull or recertification of the vessel.

MBF Arrays are attached to the outside of the vessel, and require no structural modifications to the hull or recertification of the vessel.


It all came together when…

The Marine Bubble Flow Technology is based on an innovative combination of fluid dynamics and fluidics. The technology allows controlling and fine tuning the generation, size and frequency of the air bubbles that provide the air lubrication of the ship's hull. Tank tests at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, have indicated a drag reduction potential of up to 30%. The resulting reduction in fuel consumption and emissions would be around 10-15%. Some research papers indicate that air lubrication can prevent fouling as the air bubbles change the environment around the hull.

The MBF Technology can be retrofitted to most marine vessels, but flat bottom ships are expected to show the highest gains. The MBF solution consists of 3-6 MBF Arrays in 30cm wide bands, fitted to the hull from side to side, with compressed air being supplied through a channel inside the band. The MBF Arrays can be installed and maintained in dry dock, during the ship's regular maintenance period.

The key advantage of the MBF solution lies in the retrofittable design of the MBF bands, which will provide drag reduction without compromising the integrity of the ship's hull or ship design. MBF Arrays can be easily fitted and replaced, working outside of the ship, without making structural changes to the hull that would require expensive recertification.

The MBF Technology is protected by worldwide patents.


The Team.

The strength of the Marine Bubble Flow B.V. Team is to be found in the fact that the three co-founders are not native to the Shipping Industry, although experienced in sailing.

The team combines life-long experience and insight from Oil & Gas exploration & production, large scale manufacturing and logistics within the Computer and Information Technology industry, and business development of corporates and start-ups.


Pieter Kapteijn, MSc Mech. Eng, Technology development

Pieter has four decades of experience in Oil & Gas, working for companies like Shell and Maersk Oil & Gas both in the field and at corporate headquarters in the field of R&D, technology and innovation.


Frode Lundsteen Hansen MBA, KHS, business development

Frode has three decades working within business development, working with companies like IBM and A.P. Moller-Maersk with business development at the business unit and department level.


Binnert Halbertsma, MSc Mech.Eng, Operations development

Binnert has like Pieter four decades of experience as Production Manager in companies like IBM, where Binnert was responsible for ensuring the supply chain from production to end customer of high value computer parts.


The Partners.


MBF has signed a joint venture with Royal Roos; a marine engineering company and system integrator to jointly develop the deployment technology that installation yards in major ports can license.

ALP Maritime Services; a ocean towing company.