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Indigo project a true game changer in cost-effective, long-range commercial boats

by Power Equipment 20 Mar 02:36 PDT
BtB Marine's Indigo 750ULR, OXE Diesel powered, ultra-long-range commercial workboat in action. © Power Equipment

The new OXE Diesel outboard has opened a whole new world of cost-effective commercial boating options thanks to its leading propulsion abilities and the forward-thinking of a small-but mighty Australian boat builder.

A Queensland-based boat builder is revolutionising the world of commercial boating in utilising the inherent features of OXE Diesel outboards and maritime experience.

BtB Marine, based in Queensland's picturesque Hervey Bay adjacent to the famous Sandy Straits waterways and World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, is looking to literally change the world of long-range work vessels with its new 750ULR "Indigo Project" - a concept made possible through the incredible new 200 horsepower OXE Diesel outboard.

The OXE Diesel is the only outboard built purely with commercial users in mind, and delivers unbeatable advantages in torque and maintenance over petrol horsepower rivals across its entire range.

Currently OXE Diesels are delivered in 125, 150, 175 and 200 horsepower versions with the revolutionary OXE 300 entering production this year.

Chris Hough (BtB Marine's general manager) and his wife Eva (BtB Marine's managing director) became aware of the OXE Diesel platform back in 2015, and it became the brainchild for development of an entirely new and cheaper-to-operate long-range work boat - the 750ULR.

So impressed with the concept, they went to Sweden in 2015 to see the prototypes of the OXE Diesel and talk to engineers about the engine and its capabilities.

"BtB has always come from a philosophy of looking at better ways to build cost-effective vessels," said BtB Marine's Chris Hough.

From this thinking came the 750ULR (Ultra Long Range), a 7.5 metre long, 3.14 metre beam plate aluminium work vessel with enclosed crew cab forward and massive 800 litre fuel tank.

With 6mm plate bottom and 4mm sides, the 750ULR can be trailered and easily dry-docked, creating a raft of cost-effective vessel operating options for commercial applications.

Called the "Indigo" project by BtB Marine, the 750ULR is an impressive machine under way, has good stability (thanks to a 3+ metre beam) and commands significant presence for her length off water. In comparison to working vessels of equivalent carrying capacity and range the 750ULR is a much smaller and lower-cost vessel with nimble multipurpose functionality.

The design features a comfortable, wide bunk, flushing toilet and running water, completely isolated for the comfort of the crew and has already won a leading marine industry award for its commercial application.

Its possible applications include port security, border patrol, reconnaissance and hydrographic missions, with "hull-up" design tweaks possible depending on the role required for the vessel.

"The 750ULR design with the OXE Diesel is a boat that can deliver a range of work, patrol and transfer operations cost-effectively, both with its initial cost and operating costs," Chris explained.

"AMSA survey requirements permit just a single engine in diesel fuel format so that brings costs down significantly for this vessel in terms of initial setup and maintenance."

"We see environmental issues as being more important than ever, and feel that small vessels lend themselves to these many and varied roles particularly well, from environmental impact studies before approvals are granted for a project, to the ongoing management and research of the worlds' natural assets," says Chris.

OXE Diesel's credentials have good synergy in this approach, with the outboards achieving EPA Tier-III, IMO Tier II and RCD international emissions and environmental standards.

Commercial focus on power, reliability and functionality

With a common-rail turbo charged engine, the OXE Diesel will happily run on a variety of oil-based fuel types including EN 590, ASTM D 975 No. 1 and No. 2, JIS KK 2204 and conforms to the NATO single fuel directive F54 and F75 grade fuels.

It is the torque delivered to the propeller that truly makes the OXE Diesel stand head and shoulders above the rest however, with an impressive 415Nm of torque from the 200hp engine and an incredible near 900Nm at the propeller shaft from its high torque gear ratio off its drive belt.

Torque peaks are reached at just over 2000rpm on the engine, accounting for a feeling of effortless grunt.

The OXE Diesel's drive belt (running from the powerhead down the length of the outboard's leg) is one of the torque delivery "secret weapons" of its design, and also caters for greater resilience in service, replacement and crash-stop survivability of the gearbox.

Considering a WOT fuel consumption of around 45 litres per hour, (a petrol horsepower rival is easily in the low to mid-70's), the range capabilities of the 750ULR with 800 litres of diesel onboard are unbeatable. It is estimated BtB Marine's new workboat will easily achieve a 600NM range with the OXE Diesel in the vessel's standard application.

Chris likes the proven engine platform and its 200 hour service regime - double that of a typical petrol outboard.

"What impressed us most was the fact that it is a proven engine based on a high-volume production diesel motor."

Serviceability is a standout of the OXE Diesel too, with all daily check points and filters easily accessible towards the front of the outboard with the cowl off. Uniquely, the raw water impellor (and strainer) are also accessible and easily serviced on the front of the engine - a far superior maintenance option to traditional leg disassembly required on outboards.

"The first thing you notice is how easy the OXE Diesel pushes this boat - it's actually not a lot of horsepower (200hp) on this much boat."

The 750ULR comes in at around 2.5 tonnes dry - but when you add over 800 litres of fuel, 500kg of deck capacity and seven crew, the Indigo project is no featherweight plate alloy work platform.

With her single 200hp OXE Diesel she clocked a WOT speed of 28 knots in sea trials and a healthy 20 knots at economical revs of 3200rpm delivering 1.3NM per litre of fuel.

"The other surprise is that you don't hear the motor working hard, it is effortless across its rev range".

Expecting a diesel outboard to be a noisy machine, Chris was pleasantly surprised with the on-water tests of the OXE Diesel.

"It is a very quiet motor for its horsepower and the fly-by-wire controls makes it an easy engine to control of course".

"When we did some testing with the OXE Diesel, sitting beside it with sound testing equipment at 4,000rpm gave a reading of around 87 decibels."

"To put that into perspective, we took that same sound testing equipment into a busy café near the marina and there was 80 decibels of noise in there. The OXE is really a quiet motor because you can talk comfortably even sitting next to it."

"The setup is much better on these outboards - we were particularly impressed with the engineering that has gone into the leg of the OXE."

"You simply wouldn't believe the robustness of the gearbox on these things."

"From talking to the guys that developed the OXE over in Sweden, they told us that one of the primary focus points in the development of the OXE Diesel was 'how do we get all the power and torque down the leg and to the prop best' - and they have certainly done that."

Chris went to sea when he was fifteen, and both he and his wife Eva share significant commercial skippering experience - the kind of experience that has given them the foresight to develop the 750ULR/OXE Diesel combination.

BtB Marine will build a further four 750ULR's this year and expect to have all four sold before completion.

So confident of this "big little boat" commercial platform, BtB Marine are looking to duplicate their boat building operations in the Netherlands.

BtB Marine and OXE Diesels - another Australian boating industry success story thanks to the help and expertise of Power Equipment and the products it supports.

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