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World’s Biggest Engine - Most Powerful Engine – Emma Maersk’s $170 Million Investment - and World’s Largest Ship

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The Engine

An engine is a machine that burns fuel to produce motion. An engine converts fuel energy into useful mechanical motion. There are many types of engines but the biggest engines are used in the shipping industry. The world’s biggest engine is the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96. This most powerful engine was designed to power a container ship called Emma Maersk. Emma Maersk is the world’s largest ship. Emma Maersk container ship is an approximately $170 million investment by Maersk Group, a Danish business conglomerate.


The world’s leading producer of diesel and gas engines for powering ships and generating electricity is the Finnish manufacturer, Wartsila, who are headquartered in Helsinki. Wartsila has net sales per year in excess of $7.5 billions.

Invest Your Money

If you like Wartsila, you can invest your money in Wartsila by buying and owning it stocks. The stock symbol for Wartsila is WRT1V and the stock trading is done at Helsinki Stock Exchange. Wartsila’s products and services are bought by shipping industry such as the merchant companies, offshore companies, cruise and ferry companies, the navy, and other companies in special vessel segments. Wartsila Corporation is indeed the world’s solution to lifecycle power for the marine and energy markets. With its popular low and medium-speed engines, gas and dual and tri-fuel engines, marine and power plant generating sets, mechanical drives, propulsions, seals, bearings, propulsion packages, automation, engine auxiliary systems, and environmental technologies, Wartsila stock is expected to bring good dividend checks to investors of its stock for many years to come.

World’s Biggest Engine

The world’s biggest engine is the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96. It’s the largest internal combustion engine ever built by man.  Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C is a 14-cylinder, 2-stroke turbocharged diesel engine that was specially designed to power the Emma Maersk which is owned by the Danish Maersk.

Wrtsil-Sulzer RTA96, the worlds biggest engine

Wrtsil-Sulzer RTA96, the worlds biggest engine

Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96 Engine

Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96, the world’s biggest engine, has a weight of 2.3 million kilogrammes. If the weight of the average adult person is 70 kilogrammes, this world’s biggest engine has a weight equivalent to the weight of 33,000 people.

The crankshaft of worlds biggest engine  the crankshaft translates reciprocating linear piston motion into rotation. Compare its size with the size of the man.

The crankshaft of worlds biggest engine the crankshaft translates reciprocating linear piston motion into rotation. Compare its size with the size of the man.

World’s Most Powerful Engine Can Light a Small Town

When the world’s biggest engine is running at 102 revolutions per minute, it produces 80 million watts of power energy. If the average household bulb consumes 60 watts of energy, 80 million watts is enough power for 1.3 million bulbs. If the average house has 6 bulbs lighting at any one time, the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96 engine will produce enough power to light 220,000 houses. If the average house has three occupants, this world’s most powerful engine will provide enough energy for 660,000 people. 660,000 people are the population of a small town.

Engine Cost $6,800 per Hour to Run

The Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96 engine consumes 13,000 litres of heavy fuel per hour. If one barrel of oil is equal to 158.76 litres, the world’s biggest engine consumes 81.1 barrels of oil per hour. If the price of oil is $84/barrel in the world oil markets, Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96 engine will cost $6,800 per hour. If the average American works 200 hours per month at $15/hour for a total of $3,000 per month, the world’s most powerful engine will cost an average American a 2 months salary to run for one hour.

The cylinders deck of the world's largest engine.

The cylinders deck of the world's largest engine.

The Engine Is As Big As a Block of Apartments

The Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96 engine has a length of 89 feet and a height of 44 feet. The length of 89 feet is equivalent to about four 20’ shipping containers joined together. The height between two floors in a story house is about 9 feet. The engine’s height of 44 feet is equivalent to the height of a 5 stories house. When you look at the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96 engine, it’s as if you are looking at a block of apartments.

$170 Million Emma Maersk Is A Clever Investment

And then a day came in September 2006 when the world’s biggest engine was completed and fully mounted on the $170 Million Emma Maersk. The $170 Million Emma Maersk is a clever investment of the Denmark-based Maersk Line. By the end of year 2009, Emma Maersk had 7 other sister ships of similar magnitude, making it one of the hugest investment in the entire shipping industry by Maersk Line.

Emma Maersk and Her 7 Sister Ships

Emma Maersk and her 7 sister ships are currently the largest container ships on earth. Emma Maersk has a carrying capacity of up to 15,000 TEU. TEU means twenty-foot equivalent unit. TEU is the standard unit for describing a ship's cargo carrying capacity. A standard 20-foot (20’ x 8’ x 8’) container is equal to one TEU. This means the capacity of Emma Maersk is 15,000 20 feet containers. A 20’ container can carry 14 tonnes. This Emma Maersk with 15,000 containers has the capacity to carry 210 million kilogrammes. An average adult person can consume 500 grams of wheat per day. In a month he will consume 15 kilogrammes of wheat. With 210 million kilogrammes of wheat, 14 million people can be fed by Emma Maersk for a month. A small country like Somalia with a population of 9 million can be fed by Emma Maersk for one and a half month.

Emma Maersk - currently the largest container ship on earth. Look at how small the ship next to it look. Image credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Emma Maersk - currently the largest container ship on earth. Look at how small the ship next to it look. Image credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Length of Emma Maersk Is 1300 Feet

The overall length of Emma Maersk is 1300 feet which is slightly less than half a kilometre. The supertanker, Knock Nevis, is 1500 feet long whilst Titanic length was 882 feet.

Emma Maersk Has a Cruising Speed of 25.5 Knots

World’s largest ship, Emma Maersk, has a cruising speed of 25.5 knots. One knot is about 0.5 metres per second. 0.5 metres per second is equal to 30 metres per minute which is equal to 1800 metres per hour. 25.5 knots is therefore equal to 45,900 metres per hour which is 45.90 Km/hour. The world’s fastest man is Usain St. Leo who cruises at a top speed of 37.1 Km/hour. This means that the world’s biggest ship will leave the world’s fastest man by a good distance.

No Good News to the Girls

Emma Maersk carries with it a crew of 13 people with extra room for 17 more people. This makes a lot of economic sense to Maersk line as almost every space is making money to the company. The saving in money is then translated to a lower shipping rate for the cargo. But that is not good news to the inhabitants of the ports where it docks.  A ship this size is supposed to change the lifestyle of the girls and other inhabitants of where it docks, at least for all that time the ship remains docked at the harbors. This ship is not able to entertain the inhabitants of where it docks due to its small crew size.

Canals and Bridges have to Upgrade

The size of Emma Maersk should serve as a call to those canals with limited lock sizes to upgrade immediately otherwise they risk losing business to other canals and ports. The same is true to those with smaller bridges to upgrade accordingly.

Economies of Scale in Sea Transportation

Maersk Lines have done the world proud by providing cheap sea transportation that is costing cents to a dollar per every kiloramme weight. They are able to do this by using economies of scale in sea transportation. It is getting cheaper to ship goods from USA to China and from China to USA. It has now become cheaper to transport goods from China to a US port than to transport the same goods from a US port to the final destination inland of US by a truck. For example: It may cost $1200 to transport a 20’ container from China to Jacksonville port in US and $1000, $2000 or $3000 to transport the same 20’ container from Jacksonville port to Miami. Why? This is a challenge to transporters and governments. Chinese manufactures would wish to have that responsibility of transporting their goods from China to Miami so that the consumer can enjoy even lower prices. Why should the transportation of goods from Jacksonville port to Miami be higher compared relatively to the cost of goods together with the transportation from China to Jacksonville port?

Polluting the Environment

One big shortcoming of such big ships like Emma Maersk is the amount of residual fuel oils that they consume. These bunker fuels are heavy fuels that contain a high percentage of sulphur and upon burning will emit sulphur dioxide which pollutes the environment.

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Own the Gigantic Ships

If you have liked Emma Maersk and its sister ships, then you can own a piece of these gigantic ships by buying shares in the Maersk line and associated companies trading under the name A.P. Moller – Mærsk. The stock symbol of Maersk is MAERSKB and the stock trades at the Copenhagen Stock Exchange, in Denmark.

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Barry W Cole. on July 02, 2020:

Amazing.But unfortunately this piece of advanced technology is I am afraid to say about is about as advanced as the old Steam Engines that the Diesel Engine replaced,so in my book its a step back not forward due to the terrible emissions attributed to these two stroke Diesel Engines.

I am a retired Thermodynamics Engineer so I am well aware of the negative nature of the emissions being exhausted by these Ships Engines that cause untold misery throughout the World in so many different ways.

Because of this I decided several years ago to design a clean replacement for this Sulzer/Wartsila ENGINE. I now have 2 Patents passed for my design,one being a PCT, I also have a proof of concept Engine that has been running now for over 2 years with no problems. The engine produces around 15% more torque than the Wartsila with zero Greenhouse/Toxic emissions,so if this new type of Ship Engine were manufactured, the World would see a massive reduction in emissions,and by the way also a huge reduction in Fossil Fuel consumed by these Ships!

POGO on April 13, 2013:


FaIZ on December 24, 2012:

I cant belive it! It's awesome:O :O:O:O:O:O:O:O

.... on August 04, 2012:

Only 80MW from 2300t. That's absolutely awful. The Rolls Roye MT30 (most powerful marine gas turbine in the world) produces 40MW and only weighs 6t. If you had 2300t of MT30 you'd have 15320MW. It won't be long until the engines of Wartsila become obselete.

ricardojp07 on February 26, 2012:

Have your see my video of the diesel motor 2 strokes by valves only, also wartsila can learn something

Jonas on February 08, 2012:


large bore two stroke engines are usually started by means of compressed air being fed into the cylinders. This allows the compression of air in the other cylinders and it is thenm possible to inject fuel.

idgaf on January 10, 2012:

well athena this is not a nuclear powered ship so you can't compare it to nuclear powered ships

Athena on January 08, 2012:

As far as ships go, the nuclear powered American aircraft carriers produce far more horsepower, rated at 260,000.

benjo on December 25, 2011:

wow it is so very big machine

sunny thamas anupama on November 13, 2011:




RalphGreene on August 18, 2011:

So huge!

Bewell on March 14, 2011:

This is awesome!

ben72 on January 05, 2011:

im a sea man but idnt wish to onboard this ship,,cuz if how big the ship dats also a big waves u encounter....then also same you live in the forest while across the ocean.

DavidLivingston on November 30, 2010:

This caught my eye. Very good post.

delquattro on October 19, 2010:

I just watched a documentary about the Emma Maersk on HD Theatre, and noticed that they use the exhaust to feed the engine. I was hoping someone had extrapolated the equivalent fuel consumption, or mpg of the EM instead of the stupid ass computations they made. I have discovered that she is calculated to operate at 50% efficiency, though. Meanwhile, the EPA forces Ford to squirt diesel into the exhaust to burn unburnt fuel. Smart, huh? Nobody has noticed that government gets too much tax per gallon of fuel to let automobiles get too much mpg...until they can install GPS and tax per mile. F-ing government. It sucked even before the Marxist Kenyan usurped the American presidency. from India on July 29, 2010:

excellent man, gr8 hub

good amount of information

keep it up , thx

Junie on July 16, 2010:

Great and thanks for sharing this interesting insights.

brett on June 21, 2010:

one question what dose it take to start the beast, another engine

JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on April 15, 2010:

Great Hub, ngureco! That is an amazing ship!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on April 15, 2010:

This is some information. Thank you very much for well written hub.

Tony McGregor from South Africa on April 15, 2010:

Thanks for this fascinating information. My late father was a great ship lover and very knowledgeable about such things. I am not in his league as far tas that is concerned but I retain some interest in ships and shipping.

Love and peace


msorensson on April 14, 2010:

For once, a great leap from the usual luxury ships...[My favorite is actually Rising Sun owned by Larry Ellison]

Thank you for sharing this, ngureco!!

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on April 14, 2010:



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