Raw power

By Telis Demos, Fortune reporter

(Fortune Magazine) -- Meet the engine of the global economy: the Wartsila RT-flex96C 14-cylinder two-stroke low-speed diesel marine engine. Or in plain English, the most powerful internal-combustion engine ever built. The 100,000 horsepower and 80,000 kilowatts it generates help the world's biggest containership, the Emma Maersk, take a billion dollars' worth of toys or pencils or cellphones from Shanghai to L.A. in just over a week. Helsinki-based Wartsila designed the engine to serve the fast-growing market for giant containerships. With their massive cargo capacity, these ships help satiate the world's hunger for cheap imports by lowering transport costs. In the next three years the number of ships that can carry 8,000 containers will go from 83 to 232. The engines will grow too: Wartsila rival MAN Diesel of Germany has plans for a 128,000-horsepower engine. At least in this business, bigger will always be better.

Vital Stats

The Wartsila RT-flex96C engine seen here, surrounded by scaffolding, was photographed while being built at a Korean shipyard in 2005. The engine was then moved to the Danish-owned Emma Maersk, which set sail on Sept. 8, 2006.

Produces 108,920 horsepower, equal to 1,200 family sedans.

Generates 80,080 kilowatts, enough for 70,000 homes.

Consumes 1,660 gallons of heavy diesel fuel an hour, good for 0.02 miles per gallon.

Weighs 2,300 tons.

COSTs upwards of $27 million to build.

Drives the 170,000-ton Emma Maersk about 29 miles per hour - fast enough to get its 11,000 containers from Shanghai to L.A. in just a week. Top of page