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Caterpillar Exits Production of Medium-Speed Engines

Decision affects its MaK brand and facilities in Germany

caterpillar
File image courtesy Caterpillar

Published Jul 14, 2021 5:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

American engine-builder Caterpillar has decided to phase out production of its medium-speed diesel engines, the company confirmed in a statement. The decision affects manufacturing plants in Kiel, Germany and in China, and employees have been notified. Existing MaK engine owners will still be able to obtain parts and service from Cat. 

"Consistent with our strategy, Caterpillar continually evaluates its portfolio and allocates resources to those areas that represent the best opportunity for future profitable growth," the company said in a statement. "Employees at Caterpillar Motoren Medium Speed Engine (MSE) facilities in Germany and China were informed today of Caterpillar’s decision to discontinue MSE prime product engine sales and focus solely on aftermarket services for MSE engines."

The decision affects all of the Cat medium-speed engine facilities in Germany, as well as the company's JV manufacturing plant in China. Local managers will carry out the wind-down by the end of 2022, Cat said. 

The German plant workers' union IG Metall Kiel-Neumunster is concerned that the move will eliminate 700 jobs at the plant in Kiel, along with more at other nearby sites. The union has launched a series of small protests and a social media campaign to call attention to the shutdown, and it has engaged local political leaders in its efforts.

"We will now mobilize everything and fight for every single job," union leader Stephanie Schmoliner said in a social media post. "Once these jobs are lost, they will not come back and Kiel will lose one of its most important and oldest industrial companies and with it hundreds of jobs."

Caterpillar acquired its medium-speed marine diesel line when it purchased the engine division of Maschinenbau Kiel GmbH (MaK) in 1997. The Kiel-based manufacturer had roots dating back to the First World War, producing an array of defense and industrial equipment. Its military and locomotive businesses were sold to Rheinmetall and Siemens, respectively, with Cat taking up the marine-diesel component.

The division's product lineup included main engines of up to 16,800 kW in power, with HFO, natural gas and dual-fuel powered options available. Its primary sales sectors included the cruise, ferry, inland, offshore, towing, fishing, government-vessel and dredging segments.