Varied work stamps German repair sector

B+V docks ‘Quantum of the Seas’ B+V docks ‘Quantum of the Seas’

Big ships and engine swaps have been in the news in the German repair sector of late while research ships have made their periodic yard rounds and scrubber installations continue to keep some facilities busy; Tom Todd reports.

Due for completion at Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven (LWB) in December was the extensive two-month refurbishment of the 44,588gt cruise ship Artania. She was being handed back to Phoenix Seereisen after North Sea trials in November which were reportedly lasting a little over two weeks.

The massive refurbishment of Artania included the withdrawal of all four of the 30-year-old ship’s original six-cylinder Pielstick Diesels Type 6PC4-2L, each of 5,800kW. They were being replaced on new foundations with fuel-efficient, eco-friendly Wärtsilä Type 12V32 engines each of 6,000kW and meeting stringent new emission and environmental regulations

The engine exchange started in October in LWB’s giant Dry Dock 11 with units being moved in and out through 12m wide and 6m high windows cut on either side of the cruise ship’s hull.

The old 145ton, 9m long Pielstick engines were removed using lifting gear from Lastro Heavylift in Duisburg. The same gear was used to install the new 7m long, 3m wide and 4m high Wärtsilä engines which weigh a reported 59 tons apiece. Intermediate transmissions were fitted between existing gearings and new engines.

A new Wärtsilä 8L32 Diesel auxiliary of 4,400kW was also going in as were new suppressors. The fresh water system was being modernised, steel repairs done and more balconies were being installed. Extensive regular drydocking was also being carried out.

The exact cost of the Artania refurbishment work was not revealed but it will be considerably more than the engine swap undertaken at Blohm + Voss in Hamburg in 2005 on another Phoenix ship, the smaller 28,000gt Albatros. At that time B+V swapped her four Wärtsilä-Sulzer 9ZH40/48 units for Wärtsilä 6L38A engines at a cost of €12 million and more recently the same yard renovated her for a further €10 million. So it looked as though Artania’s modernisation will cost in excess of €20 million.

The 12,614gt research ship Polarstern meantime completed her second visit this year to LWB. The 118m veteran, Germany’s longest such vessel, came in for more than two weeks of work which included stern thruster overhaul and stern strengthening for a seabed drilling unit. Operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) Polarstern is being phased out in about 2019.

Still berthed at LWB in the autumn was Schlumberger’s Island Captain, a 93m long former offshore platform supply ship which has been at the yard since 2013. The conversions of that ship and sister Island Centurion into well-service vessels have now been completed and Island Centurion left earlier this year.

Throughout their stay, little information has been provided on the technical aspects of the conversions. However, reports noted that comprehensive piping, machinery and tubing installation had been involved and LWB at one point described the project as “costly and complex”. When LWB won the contract MD Ruediger Pallentin stressed its offshore importance for the yard. He also said it "demands all our know-how, experience, flexibility and engineering knowledge”.

Research ship work has also been among the latest jobs at LWB neighbour GDD, which comprises the former Rickmers Lloyd and MWB shipyards. GDD and LWB – both part of the Petram Group - now make up the Bremerhaven Shipyard Alliance.

Germany’s most expensive and modern research ship, the €124 million,116m newbuild Sonne, called briefly at MWB – an engine specialist - for some final adjustments prior to entering service in January.

The 94.8m German research shipMaria S Merian was also at MWB as this report went to press. Reports in August said she was staying at least three months for work on her Schottel pod/pumpjet propulsion system backed by MAN gensets. The work was believed centred on repairs to her port pod but reportedly also included inspection and possible overhaul of her starboard pod.

Propulsion system problems have bedevilled Maria S Merian since she was completed at Kroeger Werft on a Polish hull in 2006 for €56.4 million. The Ministry of Education and Research acknowledged in September the ship had experienced a long string of mainly pod problems which had put her out of action for a total of 588 days and resulted in repair costs for Berlin totalling about €0.5million.

Other ships reported docked at GDD facilities by the yard’s Maria Topeit as The Motorship went to press included the 3,000dwt, 80m offshore supply ship Olympic Electra for routine overhaul including bow thruster and Azimuth drive and installation of a new boat platform.

Ms Topeit said the 5,260dwt, 95.2m long offshore tug and supply ship Rem Vision also called for propeller as well as bow and stern thruster repairs and conservation work and the 7,347dwt 120m long hopper dredger Eke Moebius came in for extensive routine work after Arctic service. The work included hull, rudder, propeller and bow thruster inspection and repairs. GDD’s Nadine Petram reported in addition that the yard was busy with a lot of ship repairs in port as of the end of October and that extensive work was taking place on naval vessels.

In Hamburg, Blohm + Voss Repair was awaiting the arrival of Cunard’s 90,000gt Queen Victoria in January. She is coming in nearly a year earlier than planned because a bearing on one of her two16.7MW ABB Azipod propulsion units needs replacing. To deal with this, Cunard is bringing forward the ship’s dry-docking and refurbishment, originally scheduled for December 2015. 

No official dates for the docking were available as The Motorship went to press, but reports said Queen Victoria was docking between 3 January and 19.January. A yard spokesman told The Motorship at the end of October she would arrive “early in January”. Cunard said the work “has no impact on the safety of the ship, but it is timely for the bearing to be replaced prior to the ship's Round World Cruise beginning 20 January”.

Queen Elizabeth docked at B+V last May and while she was there scrubber technology was installed. Cunard said the “multi-million pound refit” of Queen Victoria would also involve the installation of a filtration system for engine exhaust gas. It said that was in line with the company’s commitment to minimise the environmental impact of its ships. Nine new single state-rooms will be installed on QV and various other interior renovations would be carried out, it said.

This correspondent notes it is not the first time that Queen Victoria has booked an unscheduled dry-docking at a German yard because of bearing problems in her Azipod propulsion units.

The ship, which went into service in 2007, underwent “essential maintenance work” related to bearing problems at LWB in October 2012. Cunard told The Motorship at the time the problem had forced the owners to operate the ship at low speed.

Queen Victoria was last at Blohm + Voss Repair in 2010 when she was dry-docked for work which also included propulsion plant overhaul. B + V also repaired a damaged Queen Mary pod in 2006.

QV’s latest visit will follow service visits by three Fred Olsen cruise ships which are regular Blohm +Voss customers.

The 21,847gt Black Watch was booked in for early November for about nine days. The 24,344gt Braemar was booked in later in November for about a week and Balmoral of 34,242gt was expected for about nine days in December. The yard lengthened Balmoral by 30.7m in 2007 and Braemar by 31.2m the following year.

B+V said pipe and engineering work was on the docket for all three ships during their latest calls, along with shaft and propeller inspection, class work and painting jobs.

In October B+V docked the world’s third biggest cruise ship - Meyer Werft’s 167,800gt Quantum of the Seas – which is also the biggest cruise ship ever built in Germany. Complex though her docking was, she slid her 347.75m length and 41.4 width into B+V’s 351m long and 59m wide Elbe Dock 17 with room to spare. She stayed only two days for her delivery docking inspection and final adjustments to bow thrusters and scrubber plant sea chest covers before leaving for hand-over to RCI in Bremerhaven.

The Quantum docking attracted a lot of publicity but the visit a few days later of another smaller but equally impressive top-notch German product - Meyer’s 8,000gt research ship Sonne – was quiet by comparison. B+V’s spokesman Michael Brasse told The Motorship that, like Quantum, she also came for her final delivery docking and completion of outstanding works. 

Sonne was launched last July but has since been undergoing a series of trials and function tests – as evidenced by her earlier visit to MWB. Engineers from VEM Sachsenwerk in Dresden have been among specialists checking equipment. Their job was toverify calculations and machine designs” on her two VEM traction motors each at a rated torque of 130kNm and speed of 175rpm. “What makes them so special is that they have to keep noise levels very low over a wide speed range while contributing to the vessel’s low energy consumption”, said VEM.

Elsewhere B+V docked the 64,887 container ship Monte Rosafor 11 days for external hull cleaning and conservation, general repairs and class work. The 51,044gt cruise ship Crystal Symphonydocked for work on her bow and transverse thrusters, rudder work, stabiliser inspection as well as hull cleaning and conservation, general repairs and class work. The 20,240gt naval supply tender EGV Bonn also came for similar work plus anode renewal and bow thrusters.

It’s good to be able to report a small revival in ship repair at Volkswerft in Stralsund. Long a major repair and newbuilding player, that versatile and experienced facility has been brought down of late by the problems of the now defunct P+S Group, but is now looking better.

Susanne Meyer at Russian-owned group Nordic Yards - which bought Volkswerft for a song earlier this year - told The Motorship that Volkswerft had tackled 16 repair contracts on 10 small and large ships since June. She said Nordic was now seeking more repair and conversion work for Stralsund.

She reported that since June, among other things, conservation work, shaft, rudder, external hull inspection and repairs as well as zinc anode renewals had been among the variety of jobs carried out. Main customer had been the Wilhelmshaven Navy Dept with two ships, the Type 725 port tugs Nordstrand and Langeness.

She noted that Langeness had in fact been the very first naval order acquired by the yard under its new name Nordic Yards Stralsund. Both tugs were being finished in Volkswerft’s giant completion Hall 290 when Ms Meyer spoke to The Motorship in late October. The impressive hall has seen much bigger container and other newbuildings as well as repairs over the years.

DNV/GL officers along with the yard’s own personnel were involved in inspecting, overhauling and repairing the propulsion systems on Nordstrand and Langeness as well as their Voith-Schneider units, external hull fixtures, tanks and electrical plant. The job also included interior modernisation and painting, she told The Motorship.

Ms Meyer also revealed to The Motorship that Nordic was currently involved “in intensive negotiations with the German Navy in an effort to continue and even expand the successful co-operation it had enjoyed with the Stralsund facility in recent years”.

Nordic Yards owner Vitaly Yusufov took over Volkswerft in June making it the group’s third German Baltic shipbuilding location after Wismar and Warnemuende. He pledged that Stralsund’s comprehensive capacities and experience in repair – particularly the repair of naval ships - would not be ignored.

Finally, taking shape now at the Brenn und Verformtechnik (BVT) Shipyard in Bremen for resumed service early in 2015 is the converted 94m ferry Ostfriesland.

She will be the first German-flag ferry with LNG propulsion and has been fitted with an additional 14.3m stern section to house her new propulsion plant – while also increasing vehicle carrying capacity. Owner AG Ems is spending about €13 million on the “technically challenging” conversion.

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