Car ships go green

02 Jul 2003

Pure Car & Truck Carrier (PCTC) operators are turning green. Not with envy, but through environmental management.
As reported in last month?s issue of The Motor Ship, Mitsui OSK Lines is to have ships built which offer a reduced oil spill risk through the protected location of fuel oil tanks above the double bottom. The ships also feature an aerodynamic superstructure that is less influenced by wind. "K"Line has arguably trumped this, however, in a newbuilding programme announced last month. It is adopting a similar measure in relation to the location of fuel oil tanks and improved hull hydrodynamics. More significantly though, as far as many Motor Ship readers are concerned, it has specified an electronic-controlled engine.
"Auto manufacturers are very sensitive to environmental preservation," explains Akihiko Ichie, manager of "K"Line?s car carrier planning and development group. "As they are our customers for car carrier vessels it is important for us to reflect their interests."
Helge Solheim, marketing manager at HUAL, sheds more light on the subject: "For some [automakers] ISO 14001 is a requirement for doing business," he says. An inherent feature of ISO 14001 is continuous improvement of environmental management performance ? building better performing ships is a relatively straightforward way of demonstrating continual improvement.
"K"Line?s recent newbuilding commitment consists of three 5,000 unit PCTCs to be built at the Nantong Cosco KHI Ship Engineering Co. (NACKS) yard in China. Deliveries of the Kawasaki Shipbuilding-designed vessels are scheduled for August and December 2005 and February 2006. The ships have a panamax beam and are 179.99m long. They have a specified service speed of 20 knots and have a garage containing three hoistable car decks with heavy lift and high load capability.
The electronic engine specified for the ships is a seven-cylinder MAN B&W S60ME-C model ? and it is not necessarily just environmental factors that have led to the choice. A spokesman for MAN B&W says shipowners now recognise the benefits of electronic controlled engines do not lie solely in reduced pollutant emissions, but also in better fuel economy and in smaller engine size, leading to more cargo space.
The three ships will have less capacity than two 6,000 unit panamax vessels that the company will take delivery of later this year from Imabari Shipbuilding in Japan and two further 6,000 unit panamax vessels that "K"Line will charter from Stamco Ship Management upon their completion by Poland?s Stocznia Gdynia in December 2003 and March 2004.
The lower capacity on a panamax beam, at first glance, seems like a strange choice. Closer inspection, however, reveals some of the thinking behind the decision. The cargo of several customers is combined on one ship and each of these customers (often) has different preferred load and unload ports. Logistically, filling a larger capacity ship is complex and can require more port calls, increasing cost and voyage time. Automakers would prefer to see smaller vessels going more frequently as they want to minimise inventory carried on their books, according to Solheim (a typical shipment?s value can easily exceed $20 million), so vessel design is a trade-off between this customer requirement and ship operating economy.
In addition, there remain some ports in the developing world where length is restricted to 180m ? in west Africa, for example ? which take many used cars.
HUAL has recently committed to buying and chartering approximately 6,000 unit PCTC ships, which measure a fraction under 200m in length. The Panama Canal can accommodate longer ships - up to about 290m - but a combination of stability and the considerations described above has meant the length of PCTCs is yet to breach the 200m mark (and therefore unit capacity has stuck in the 6,000s).
Market rumours towards the end of last year suggested Wallenius Wilhelmsen was looking at 8,000-9,000 unit ships, however in a recent order placed with Mitsubishi Heavy industries, it stuck with the standard 6,000 unit capacity. Experts suggest that anything larger would lose considerable flexibility and would have to be committed to a specific trade. However, ships of such size would benefit from reduced emissions per unit load ? a point that could prove attractive to the green-minded automakers.

Links to related companies and recent articles ...

Wilhelmsen Ships Service AS

view more