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Meet the giant diesel engine that powers huge shipping containers


Shipping up to 15,550 20-foot-long containers across the world's waves is hard work. So hard that Emma Maersk, a quarter-mile-long cargo ship, needs serious muscle: the Wärtsilä 14RT-flex96C—44 feet tall and 87 feet long—among the largest diesel engines on the planet.

Because they cost a lot to run and belch filthy emissions, shipping outfits plan to phase out all 24 of the engines now in use, or switch them to cleaner-burning, pricier fuels. By around 2020, new emissions regulations will restrict them on the water. For now, one beast generates enough horsepower to propel Emma and tons of consumer merch—one container holds 6,000 pairs of sneakers, 10,000 iPads, or 48,000 bananas—from Suffolk to Shenzhen at 28 miles per hour. That's about 60 percent faster than competitors.

1,660 Fuel use, in gallons per hour

Although it's a relatively efficient engine, the 14-cylinder RT-flex96C can still consume nearly 12 million gallons of diesel in a year. And since fuel can account for roughly 70 percent of a cargo ship's operating budget, this one is a money burner.

284 Fuel heat, in Fahrenheit

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