Yards home-in on repair as newbuild work sags

‘QM2’ returns to Blohm & Voss ‘QM2’ returns to Blohm & Voss

A lack of newbuilding is again nudging larger German shipyards into repair, writes Tom Todd.

It’s an old story and always serves to make the sector more competitive and prompt repair yards into looking at what they do best. This, as yards reported a range of work including research ships and the QM2.

Developments at several prominent yards, like Lindenau Schiffswerft in Kiel and Mützefeldtwerft in Cuxhaven, have pointed up the trend back to repair, but nowhere more so than at Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven (LWB).

It said it was making bigger efforts to return to its roots in ship and machinery repair and conversion “in all their aspects” in the face of now hard-to-get newbuilding. Repair has been the hub of LWB activity since it was founded. Joint MD Rüdiger Pallentin declared however: “the skilled repair capabilities which are part of our hub competence and which have given us our good reputation, have been somewhat overshadowed” in recent years by the spectacular newbuildings and completions which have stamped activity at the Bremerhaven yard.

“We would like these skills, nurtured for more than 154 years, to be just as effectively represented on the global market by our new agents and not just aspects of them but the whole spectrum”, Pallentin said.

To date Lloyd Werft has been represented by about a dozen agents mainly in Europe and the USA. Now it is re-organising its network and, along with two new agencies in Scandinavia and Singapore, is also being represented for the first time in the Far East.

“Our state-of-the-art equipment, our large-scale dock capacities and the outstanding know-how of our personnel have prompted a readjustment of yards’ emphases”, said Pallentin. “We were always the international experts for repair and conversion. In future we want to bring that more into the spotlight with our new agency repair network between Stockholm and Singapore”.

Mützelfeldtwerft has also announced it is concentrating more on repair, along with offshore business, following changes this year in ownership and management, job cutbacks and a change of name to Mützelfeldt Nord.

Like Pallentin, MD Felix von Waldow was quoted as pointing out that German yards cannot compete with Asian facilities and that few owners are ordering new ships in Germany. He said that had prompted home yards to fall back on repair. That in turn had meant increased competition and declining prices, he said.

Von Waldow reportedly believes that some yards will not make it, but that the Cuxhaven facility will not be among them because it has what it takes to be a good repair facility, including a location on Elbe deep water and proximity to offshore markets.

Echoing those sentiments, while making new and so far successful efforts to attract more repair because of unbeatable foreign newbuilding prices, is traditional tanker specialist Lindenau Schiffswerft in Kiel.

“The main emphasis of our activities at the moment is repair and maintenance” Dieter Kühne, Lindenau’s MD told The Motorship. “The sector is becoming an increasingly important mainstay for the yard and that has shown that our new strategy is on track”.

“Yards are trying to get a toehold in different market segments and acquire orders there”, Kühne added. “That’s difficult because of the global market situation and cost differences with the Far East and southeast Europe”.

Because of the shortage of newbuilding orders however “the fight for repair contracts is also getting increasingly tough”, he acknowledged.

Lindenau has a good reputation as one of Germany’s most competent shipbuilders and Kühne also points to a superb location at the entrance to the Kiel Canal along with cranes and floating dock facilities.

Because of the fall-off in newbuilding, the yard was available for fast, short-term emergency repair. This, he said, “is beginning to pay off”. It’s something other newbuilding yards with employment gaps and big dock capacities, are also trying to take advantage of.

Around the yards, Blohm + Voss Repair grabbed the headlines as The Motorship went to press with the news that it had beaten off stiff competition to win the latest prestigious drydock and refit of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 in the giant Elbe 17 Dock between late November and early December.

Renovation including a mountain of interior changes, maintenance, class and control work were all on the work sheet in B+V’s landmark Elbe Dock 17. The yard last overhauled QM2 in 2006 and refitted her in 2008.

News of the latest prestige job will have warmed hearts at the Hamburg yard as the prospects of B+V changing hands this year as originally planned appeared to dim. Owners ThyssenKrupp were talking to a British investment group, widely reported to be Star Capital Partners, about the sale of the civil shipbuilding sectors of the yard. The negotiations followed the rejection by ThyssenKrupp and reportedly also by the 1900-strong B+V workforce, of a surprise purchase offer from Bremen shipyard Lürssen, which would at least have kept the Hamburg yard in German hands.

ThyssenKrupp however charged that Lürssen, which employs about 1,400 people, wanted to pick out the best bits of B+V, like yacht building, and that jobs would be lost. Lürssen head Friedrich Lürssen disputed that and said his yard wanted to take over all of B+V, including naval and civil activities. Two years of negotiations with Abu Dhabi Mar ADM over the sale of the historic German yard ended in disagreement in June.

Booked into B+V Repair in November was the 51,648dwt container/ ro-ro carrier Atlantic Cartier for drydocking and bow thruster installation. She was the latest in a string of decent-sized container ships to call in recent months and followed four others, all for general repairs and class work - the 34,457dwt Margarete Schulte, the CMA CGM Lavendar, of 39,418dwt, the 22,254dwt Helle Ritscher and the 105,014dwt MSC Charleston.

The 45,295dwt vehicle carrier Falcon Arrow berthed alongside for steel work while another vehicle carrier, the 56,642gt Grande Atlantico, came for propeller work and shaft sealing.

LWB also bagged cruise ship work late year with regular customers Black Watch, Amadea and Albatros (all of around 28,000gt) calling in November and December for “extensive annual maintenance and class work”.

They followed the 16,282gt NSB container ship Buxsailor, in for comprehensive class work, and other merchant ships described by MD Pallentin as “interesting”. They included the 42,382gt container ship CMA CGM America and two German cargo ships - the 11,935gt chemical/product tanker Paterna and the 22,655gt bulk carrier Pochard.

LWB said completion of the unusual and extensive conversion of OIG Giant 11 had taken longer than scheduled. A delay of more than a month until late October was due to additional work commissioned by her owners, Pallentin said. The new offshore supply, maintenance and installation vessel, converted from the semi-submersible, heavy lift ship Combi Dock 1V, had originally been due for re-delivery on 17 September.

Highlights of the conversion were many. A new 500t, seven-deck, single module accommodation extension to the forward superstructure was installed. Like the ship’s new 30t Norwegian-built, German assembled heli-pad, it was hoisted and fitted using the giant Bugsier floating crane Enak. The OIG Giant 11 also got a bigger, more efficient bow thruster and a lengthened 12m long and 3.5m wide skeg. Mounted below the surface and between the shafts it weighs 34t and is fitted to provide improved course stability.

At Lindenau Schiffswerft, business supported Dieter Kühne’s claim of improvement. The yard repaired more than 40 ships and other floating units this year up to late October, Kühne said.

Among them was the German sail training ship Gorch Fock for what a Bundesmarine spokesman described as routine work. It included the replacement of zinc anodes and correction of hull coating damage and other wear sustained during her recent long South American tour.

Kühne also singled out recent visits by the 2,775dwt general cargo ship Solveig K for overhaul, bow damage repair and class work. Her owner was quoted as saying he could have gone to Lithuania or Poland but that Lindenau was ideally situated. “It’s also good to support a home yard”, he added.

The 38m customs boat Schleswig-Holstein and the 1,663dwt cargo ship Marion K were also at Lindenau for undetailed work. The dredger Wilhelm Krüger came in for collision damage repair.

Lindenau hosted one of the three prominent German research ships which have called at home yards recently for maintenance and repair. The 35-year-old Poseidon, like Gorch Fock, came in after a long spell at sea lasting two years. Routine overhaul of the 60.8m IFM-Geomar-operated ship included main engine and winches. Her stern winch got new controls to improve handling of scientific equipment like her new deep-sea ROV Phoca. Hull painting and the renewal of crane equipment were also on the Poseidon work sheet.

Equally extensive was work in Dock V at engine specialists Motorenwerke Bremerhaven (MWB) on a second, younger, German research ship - the 25 year old Meteor, whose former captain, Niels Jakobi, is now head of the co-ordination centre for German Research Vessels at the University of Hamburg. He told The Motorship the work cost €2million and included the overhaul of two Diesel generators and two 1150kW tandem electric drive motors.

Other work on the 97.5m, 3,990gt ship involved ballast tank conservation, hydrophone gear repair, bow crane and winch system overhaul and maintenance, as well as renewal of the upper mast and modernisation.

Lloyd Werft was responsible for completing the annual maintenance and repair on the third German research ship - the 12,558gt polar research and icebreaking ship Polarstern. The 117.9m ship spent about a month in the Kaiserdock 11 after her return from a North Pole trip. It was her second visit this year. “Polarstern visits us two or three times a year”, said Pallentin. “Her next docking has already been booked for May of 2012”.

Nearby Bremerhavener Dock (Bredo) said it expected a “generally satisfactory workload” through to the end of the year. Dirk Harms, assistant to MD Norbert Jurcyk, told The Motorship he also expected new orders in the final two weeks of the year. “That’s because ships in many ports will not be handled (at that time) but we will continue to work in the yard without interruption”, he explained.

The conversion of the 14,379gt ro-pax ferry ship Tanger Express (ex Mette Mols) for regular customer FRS was being completed November for service from December. The work included new livery, new 14m MacGregor stern ramps, side door re-location, mooring gear renewal, upgrading of the evacuation system and the overhaul of cabins and public areas as well as routine overhaul and repairs. Extensive repairs and maintenance on the dredger Nordsee were also being completed November.

The pilot station ship Hanse, which called for general work and repairs in September, was the third SWATH vessel to call at Bredo inside six months and a good indication of the specialist work now being tackled by the facility. She followed the pilot station SWATHs Elbe in August and Wandelaar last May – the latter a newbuild for finishing off.

Among others at Bredo have been Germany’s most powerful tug, the 78m new standby Nordic for 10 days of guarantee work and the cruise yacht Seadream 1 for general work, steel repairs and upgrading.

Harms said the yard’s new engineering hall was now up and running while its new floating storage hall, built from conversion sections bought in from neighbouring LWB, was planned for operation next year.He reported the acquisition of the potentially very useful floating crane SK1, with a lifting capacity of 150/30/10t, also from Lloyd Werft.

“This means we can handle all kinds of crane jobs around the floating docks very flexibly from the water-side, for example the repair of hatch covers and we can carry out repairs on ships in port using the crane as a ‘floating workshop’”, he told The Motorship. “It also means we can make additional crane capacity available to customers in the port”, he said.

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