Visiting the Hanjin Oslo Container Ship

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Stock Car Series kicks its season off with a bang and, unlike other sports, starts the season off with the biggest event of the year rather than closing with it. Daytona Speed Weeks is a multi-week, many race event the finale of which is the Daytona 500. The 500 starts with a huge field of 43 cars and is perhaps famous for some of the massive multi-car wrecks. The 17 car pile-up of 2011, made a 43 card field look like the appropriate amount of redundancy just to get a car over the finish line at the end.

Watching 43 stock cars race for the green flag at the start of the race is an impressive show of power as 146,000 lbs of metal charge towards the start line at nearly 200 miles per hour running so close that they appear to be connected. From the stands, the noise is deafening, the wall of air they are pushing can be felt 20 rows up and the air is hot from all the waste heat spilling off the field as they scream to the line.

Imagine harnessing all the power of all the engines from the 43 cars heading towards the start line at Daytona in a single engine? In fact, let’s make it harder, imagine having all the power of all the cars that take the green flag at both Daytona Sprnt Cup races each year. That would be a single engine capable of putting out 64,500 hp. Actually, for safety reasons, NASCAR restricts engine output at the Daytona and Talladega superspeedways to approximately 430 hp but let’s stick with the 750 hp they can produce when unrestricted. If we harnessed that power into a single engine, we would have an unbelievable 64,500 HP. Last week Jennifer and I were invited to tour the Hanjin Oslo container ship which happens to be single engine powered. Believe it or not, that single engine is more powerful that the aggregate horsepower of both Daytona starting fields. It has a single 74,700 hp engine.

Last week Peter Kim who supervises the Hanjin shipping port at Terminal 46 invited us to tour the port facility and the Hanjin Oslo container ship. I love technology, scale, and learning how well run operations work so I jumped on the opportunity.

Shortly after arriving, we watched the Oslo being brought into terminal 46. The captain and pilot were both looking down from the bridge wing towering more than 100’ above us giving commands to the tugs as the Oslo is being eased into the dock. Even before the ship was tied off, the port was rapidly coming to life. Dock workers were scrambling to their stations, trucks were starting, container cranes were moving into position, Customs and Border Patrol was getting ready to board, and line handlers were preparing to tie the ship off. There were workers and heavy equipment moving into position throughout the terminal. And, over the next 12 hours, more than a thousand containers would be moved before the ship would be off to its next destination at 6:30am the following morning.

The Oslo is not the newest ship in the Hanjin fleet having been built in 1998. It’s not the biggest ship nor is it the most powerful. But it’s a great example of a well-run, super clean, and expertly maintained container ship. And, starting with the size, here’s the view from the bridge.

The ship truly is huge. What I find even more amazing is that, as large as the Oslo is, there are container ships out there with up to twice the cargo carrying capacity and as much as 45% more horse power. In fact, the world’s most powerful diesel engine is deployed in a container ship. It’s a 14 cylinder, 3 floor high monster that produces 109,000 hp designed by the Finnish company Wartsila.

The Hanjin Oslo uses a (slightly) smaller inline 10 cylinder version of the same engine design. The key difference between it and the world’s largest diesel shown above is that the engine in the Oslo is 4 cylinders shorter at 10 cylinders inline rather than 14 and it produces proportionally less power. On the Oslo, the engine spans 3 decks so you can only see 1/3 of it at any one time. Here’s the view from the Hanjin Oslo engine room top deck, mid deck, and lower deck:

The engine is clearly notable for its size and power output. But, what I find most surprising is it’s a two stroke engine. Two stroke engines produce power at the beginning of the power stroke where the piston is heading down, dump the exhaust towards the end of that stroke, then bring in fresh air at the beginning of the next stroke as the piston begins heading back up, and then compresses the air for the remainder of that stroke. Towards the end of the compression stroke, fuel is injected into the cylinder where it combusts rapidly building pressure and pushing the piston back down on the power stroke. Four stroke engines separate these functions into four strokes: 1) power going down, 2) exhaust going up, 3) intake going down, and then 4) compression going up.

Two-stroke engines are common in lawn mowers, chainsaws, and some very small outboards because of their high power to weight ratio and simplicity of design that makes very low cost engines possible. Larger diesel engines used in trucks and automobiles are almost exclusively 4 stroke engines. Ironically, the very highest output diesel engines found in large marine applications are also two strokes.

From Spending an evening with the Hanjin team, I was super impressed. I love the technology, the scale was immense, everything was very well maintained, and they are clearly excellent operators. If I was moving goods between continents, I would look first to Hanjin.

Other pictures from our Hanjin Oslo visit:


James Hamilton
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4 comments on “Visiting the Hanjin Oslo Container Ship
  1. Hi Zach. Good question on the oil system. Unlike low cost 2-stroke gas engines, this engine has a pressurized oil lubrication system just as 4-stroke gas engines due. No oil is mixed with the intake charge so much of the excess pollution levels you find with typical budget gasoline 2-strokes is eliminated.

    The engines can operate different fuels. When in less environmentally sensitive areas, they burn heavy oil sometimes called bunker fuel (actually is a more general term that can be applied to all large ship fuel) or residual fuel oil. This is a very low cost, high-impurity, high-power density fuel that is not particularly environmentally friendly. In ports with environmental restrictions, they run the engines on #2 diesel. I believe they are typically started on the lighter and more volatile #2 diesel and then switched to heavy oil once they are warm.


  2. Zach Hill says:

    That is a really cool engine, James. Super interesting stuff. I suppose the reason for using a 2-stroke for such a large engine is that you have really few moving parts and many fewer reciprocating pieces and hence bearings to lubricate and maintain. I can’t even imagine what a valve-train for a 100,000 HP engine would look and sound like! Also, if there aren’t emissions standards to worry about for marine engines (I assume there are not any, but I don’t know), then you don’t have to worry about the oil-burn often associated with 2-stroke engines. Do you know how they lubricate such a huge 2-stroke? Does diesel provide sufficient lubrication itself? Gasoline clearly doesn’t, but maybe diesel does. Really cool stuff. Thanks James!

  3. Good hearing from you Steve and thanks for the tip on the Museum of Communications. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks,


  4. Steve Cellini says:

    James – loved reading about these huge engines… thanks!

    You said this in your post: "I love technology, scale, and learning how well run operations work so I jumped on the opportunity."

    Along those lines: you might want to check out the Museum of Communications, near Boeing Field:

    It’s a museum focused on the history of telephone communications equipment: from the handset, to the pole, to the switch, and back… the original "service".

    I believe they have three or four generations of switches (starting with the manual kind), and equally-old docents explaining them… guys who used to run or repair them. The switches are interconnected and fully operational, so you can originate a call on the manual switchboard, and answer it via a 60’s generation switch (computer).

    I found it very cool to view it from the perspective of "What does it take to run a 7×24 service that people depend on…"; such as the increasingly-sophisticated methods of ensuring uptime… diagnostics, redundancy, etc, as well as different approaches to billing.

    It’s only open on Tuesdays :) I love visiting there; drop a line if you plan to visit and want company.

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