More COs conserving fuel as part of program

By Philip Ewing - Article from
Posted : Monday Apr 13, 2009 14:54:59 EDT

To encourage surface ships to reduce the fuel they use, the Navy is offering serious cash for energy-saving crews.

The top prize is $67,000, which commanding officers can use any way they want. Some skippers have used the winnings to buy uniforms, laptops or other rewards for their crews for saving the Navy money.

Any ship that spends at least 96 hours underway per quarter is eligible for the prizes. Although the program has been around for more than a decade, interest spiked along with petroleum costs and hasn’t subsided, officials said.

“Several years ago, we had some commanding officers that didn’t want to do it. … They didn’t want to bother with energy conservation, because fuel was cheap then,” said Hasan Pehlivan, program manager for the efficiency effort. “But in the last three or four years, the attitude changed almost 100 percent.”

With more participation across the fleet, the Navy has seen record savings over the past year: In fiscal 2008, the Navy saved $136 million in energy costs, or about 1.1 million barrels of fuel, and it’s on track to beat that in fiscal 2009; in the first quarter alone, the Navy saved $48 million. Participation has gone from 25 ships two years ago to 70 ships for fiscal ’09, according to Naval Sea Systems Command.

For fiscal 2008, the command paid out a total of $2 million to efficient ships. The destroyer Porter, based in Norfolk, Va., received $34,000 as the fourth-place ship of among Atlantic Fleet’s five winners.

“Whether there’s any reward or not has become secondary to me,” said Cmdr. Michael Feyedelem, Porter’s commanding officer. “It’s nothing more than recycling at home — you may not gain any monetary or immediate benefit, ... but it’s the right thing to do.”

Feyedelem, who used the award money to buy new tools and foul-weather jackets for his sailors, said he has tried to spread energy awareness to all levels of the ship. His navigator knows to plot straight-line courses, his sailors know to turn off lights in unused spaces, and his engineers know to use the ship’s main engines lightly.

Porter spent as much time as possible underway last year using only one propeller, Feyedelem said, or running both screws with just two of its four gas turbines. The ship got to the point that even when it was going in and out of port, the crew would wait until the last possible moment to power up all four turbines, then power down the extras as soon as it was safe.

If the channel into Norfolk was clear, Feyedelem said, the destroyer sometimes would wait until after it had passed Cape Henry to power up all four engines; running all four is standard practice when coming into port, to have extras online in case one fails.

The only other time it always kept all four turbines running was during underway replenishments, so it could break away from the other ship even if an engine failed.

Pehlivan acknowledged that a culture shift is needed to get crews to trail a screw or run fewer engines, which is why enticing ships to participate works better than forcing them.

“Incentives [are] the way to save fuel — in the past, admirals tried sticks, and it backfired. It didn’t work,” he said.


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