With thousands of large cargo ships, container ships, bulk carriers, and smaller craft mooring at the Port of Rotterdam every year, Rijkswaterstaat’s customs and border protection have their work cut out for them. While cargo and paperwork are usually in order, customs patrol boats like the Grote Stern are always on the lookout for illegal shipments and are regularly surprised by the limitless creativity of smugglers. If a vessel looks like it might carry illegal cargo, Grote Stern will pass alongside it while divers check the bottom of the boat.
Grote Stern, (Dutch for Sandwich tern, a bird with a funny black crest), measures 60.7 feet (18.5 m) long and has a beam of 13.8 feet (4.2 m). When the boat was brought into De Haas PowerPort for a maintenance overhaul in 2014, the PowerPort staff suggested upgrading the engine with a John Deere PowerTech 13.5L marine engine. Non-marine versions of the 13.5L engine are used by John Deere to power two models of its large 9RX and 9RT tractors and both versions of the diesel engine are built in Waterloo, Iowa.
“Surely you’re not going to put a tractor engine in our boat?” That was the initial response of a representative from Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch Ministry of the Environment and Infrastructure) when Richard Stoffer of PowerPort suggested to upgrade a customs patrol boat with the PowerTech marine engine. “They were skeptical of the ‘tractor engine,’” Stoffer continues. “We showed them marine forums reviewing John Deere engines. They agreed, after we told them we were so confident of the 13.5L, we’d stake our reputation on it. And they love it!”
Port of Rotterdam Facts
- Europe’s largest port
- 30,000 seagoing and 110 inland vessels visit the port each year
- Port area includes 30,888 acres (12,500 hectares)
Source: Port of Rotterdam Facts and Figures.
Custom Engine Installation Required
During the engine installation minor adjustments to the exhaust and sprayhood of Grote Stern were also made. To eliminate water hammer, PowerPort placed the new diesel engine and built the exhaust pipe about 11.8 in (30 cm) higher than the previous engine to ensure it stays above the waterline. High torque enables the patrol boat to accelerate easily. Although its maximum speed is 33 mph (55 kph), Rijkswaterstaat doesn’t want an eager crew to get carried away, so the Grote Stern’s maximum top speed was adjusted to only 28 mph (45 kph) .
NPS Diesel in Ravenstein, delivered the generator engines and built the complete generator units. PowerPort, through its collaboration with De Haas Maassluis Shipyard, is responsible for maintenance and repair of Rijkswaterstaat’s fleet, including Grote Stern.
The Journey from Waterloo, Iowa to the Port of Rotterdam
All of our John Deere PowerTech 13.5L marine engines, like the one powering the Grote Stern, are manufactured in Waterloo, Iowa. Once they are assembled it takes approximately 30 to 40 days to be shipped overseas to the Netherlands. This journey begins at a logistics company that coordinates the shipment. The diesel engines are typically combined with other items destined for European markets and placed into a large container before being shipped thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Once the engine arrives it must clear customs. Once cleared, a local distributor picks up the engine at Saran – France and trucks it to a dealer and eventually to the boat yard where it is installed.
The marine engine market is one that John Deere has been involved with for more than four decades. “As early as 1975, there were people taking John Deere engines and placing them into marine applications. Since 1991 John Deere has been manufacturing engines specific to marine applications, under its own brand,” says Carl Micu, manager, North America/South America engine & drivetrain sales for John Deere.
Propulsion engines used in the Netherlands must meet European Union marine emissions requirements that are similar to a John Deere Tier 2 industrial or tractor engine. “There are some more stringent requirements on the horizon for EU propulsion engines but they don’t currently apply. We will have product available when they become in effect,” says Micu.
Named for a bird, powered by a Deere
The Grote Stern, which is Dutch for Sandwich tern (a bird with a funny black crest), is a customs patrol boat powered by a John Deere PowerTech 13.5L marine engine.