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Smithsonian research arm repowers with Volvo Penta engines

The Morpho makes daily runs for scientists and visitors on the Panama Canal.

The Morpho makes daily runs for scientists and visitors on the Panama Canal.

The Panama-based Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution has repowered its 11-year-old launch Morpho with triple Volvo Penta diesel sterndrives.

The 48-foot vessel makes daily runs for scientists and visitors between the institution’s laboratory facility in Gamboa, Panama, and the Barro Colorado Island nature sanctuary in the Panama Canal waterway.

The boat was repowered with three Volvo Penta D6 330-hp diesel Aquamatic engines with DPH Duoprop drives. The installation was completed by Volvo Penta application engineers with the local dealer, Comercial de Motores.

“The engines were chosen based on the reported reliability, fuel economy, performance and the support we received from CDM,” Luis Zambrano, the institute’s maintenance supervisor, said in a statement. “During the sea trials we discovered the boat was cruising at 38 to 39 knots (43.7 mph to 44.9 mph). We could not reach more than 23 knots (26.5 mph) with the old package. Now operators of the boat are fighting to be the one at the helm due to its performance.”

Zambrano also said the boat is consuming 50 percent less fuel and the engines are much quieter than their predecessors.

The Volvo Penta D6 engines feature common-rail fuel injection, double-overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, a turbocharger and an aftercooler. They have EPA Tier 3 emissions standards.

The engines are smaller than the ones they replaced, which should facilitate routine maintenance.



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