Wagenborg sets new standard with EasyMax

The EasyMax design plays to Wagenborg’s strengths in the dry cargo and project shipment sectors (photo: Flying Focus) The EasyMax design plays to Wagenborg’s strengths in the dry cargo and project shipment sectors (photo: Flying Focus)

‘Easy to build, easy to operate, easy to load’ have been the guiding principles for Wagenborg’s new class of home-grown multipurpose carrier, writes David Tinsley.

An enduring strength of the northern Netherlands marine sector is its ability to conceive creative and innovative applications, a trait that has assumed added significance over the last number of years because of intensified competition and weaker conditions in most spheres of shipping. The latest testament to a propensity for marrying imaginative but pragmatic design with acute cost-consciousness is Royal Wagenborg’s EasyMax multipurpose vessel concept, embodied for the first time in the 14,300dwt Egbert Wagenborg.

In addition to local construction, at Delfzijl, where the shipowning and shipmanagement group has its headquarters, the vessel embodies a high proportion of Dutch content, underlining the fact that the Netherlands, and the northern provinces in particular, remain firmly committed to national industrial production as a complement to technological and innovation skills.    

Egbert Wagenborg is striking in form, with her castle-like forward bridge and accommodation and straight stem, with no rake, and exceptionally high length-to-breadth ratio, and is of an overall size that belies a birth on the inland side of the sea dyke. In fact, the ship is the largest ever built within the inland waterway system in the north Netherlands. The beam is the maximum for access through the sea lock into Delfzijl’s outer harbour.

Shipbuilding contractor Royal Niestern Sander has a track record in delivering optimised tonnage for the shortsea trades and the ocean-going multipurpose cargo ship sector, both of which are core fields of activity of Wagenborg Shipping. Egbert Wagenborg represents a highpoint in scale for the yard situated in Defzijl’s inner harbour.    

The guiding principles for the development of the EasyMax design, potentially the blueprint for a new generation of ships to augment the considerable fleet owned, part-owned and managed by Wagenborg, were that it should be “easy to build, easy to operate, easy to load”.

Varied cargo activities

Wagenborg’s multifarious cargo carrying activities and freight contract coverage include a core involvement in year-round Baltic navigation. The company has also emerged as an important player in transatlantic trade to and from the St Lawrence River and Great Lakes. Consequently, the new fleet entrant has been strengthened and fitted to Finnish/Swedish ice class 1A requirements. Operating flexibility and cargo scope has also been enhanced by design arrangements and certification that enable her to sail in ‘open-top’ configuration, without using hatch covers on the two box-shaped holds. This allows the transportation of outsized items of freight, including engagement in the dynamic sector of wind energy equipment delivery logistics.

EasyMax dimensions have been determined so as to maximise the operational window in the designated trading areas, notably the Baltic Sea, Mediterranean, St Lawrence Seaway and Americas. The two unobstructed, flush-sided holds provide a total 625,000ft3 capacity for forestry goods, including timber, paper and cellulose, steel products, bulk commodities,  breakbulk freight, and project shipments and indivisible items such as machinery, industrial plant, wind turbines, and other equipment. Furthermore, the design is conducive to a high intake of light cargo. The underdeck cargo volume is in excess of that of the slightly longer, F-class multipurpose vessels of comparable 13,500 deadweight carrying capacity and all-up 14,600dwt delivered between 2009 and 2012.

A keypoint of the EasyMax is the limited amount of fittings in the hold spaces, due to the absence of tweendecks, beams, securing eyes and container foundations, so as to reduce handling and cleaning time and save expense and weight. However, portable bulkheads that can be placed in different positions across each hold are employed to extend the ship’s trading flexibility, by providing separation between different grades and types of cargo. In addition, the underdeck spaces retain fixed fire protection, dehumidifiers and lighting.  

The two holds account for 13.5m of the hull width and provide a depth of 12.1m below the hatch covers, free of understow, The forward hold is the smaller of the two, extending for 47.4m, while the No2 hold is 64.4m in length. The hatchways are closed by pontoon-type covers supplied by the Dutch manufacturer Coops & Nieborg, and are handled in the manner characteristic of small and medium-sized, Dutch-built cargo vessels by a special, low-profile, rail-mounted gantry travelling astride the coamings. When sailing in ‘open-top’ format, covers can be stacked at each end of No1 hold, at the after end of No2 hold, or alternatively left ashore.

Modest installed power

The single main engine is a compact unit of modest power in relation to the size and trading reach of the new ship. The six-cylinder MaK M32C diesel, produced at Caterpillar Motoren’s Rostock factory, turns out 2,999kW at 600rpm, geared down to 111rpm at the controllable pitch propeller, which is mounted in a nozzle to maximise thrust. The installation provides for transits at 11.5 knots, and is expected to offer consistently conservant fuel consumption.  

Sailing at 11 knots at 8.3m draught, in good sea and wind conditions, and with the 1,005 kVA shaft generator connected, the daily fuel oil burn by the engine is anticipated at approximately nine tonnes per day.  The MaK model was also selected for its ease of maintenance. Consumption by the auxiliaries in port was expected to be about one tonne of marine gas oil per 24 hours. Each of the two diesel generators is rated at 450kVA, driven by a 360kW Caterpillar C18 high-speed diesel. As a necessary aid to manoeuvring, a 750kW tunnel thruster is fitted in the bow.  

A substantially smaller engine output than would normally be the case with this size of vessel, and the attendant reduction in fuel consumption, has had a signal bearing on the achievement of a low EEDI (Energy Efficiency Design Index). Other influencing factors are the hull shape, which has been optimised for the best efficiency at several draughts rather than at a single loading condition, and the suitability of the two holds for a variety of heavy and light cargoes.

Set a little aft of the bow stem, the narrow wheelhouse applies the ergonomic and modular AlphaBridge design concept of Rotterdam-domiciled Alphatron Marine Beheer, and features an outfit of 46-inch (117cm) displays. The four large, bright screens are intended to allow viewing from nearly every angle, encapsulating  Japan Radio Company’s multi-function display (MFD) system for radar, ECDIS and conning functions, while the bridge affords 360-degree all-round vision with no line-of-sight restrictions. The solid state S-band scanner type included in the radar package is claimed to be the smallest worldwide. Alphatron Marine has been wholly-owned by JRC since last October.

The AlphaBridge consoles were made under licence by Eekels Technology. Eekels delivered the complete electrical installation and marine automation system, which is directly linked to the network, allowing accessibility from many points onboard and also from ashore. The voyage data recorder (VDR) has been prepared for connection to JRC’s remote maintenance system.

Optimised hull envelope

Positioning the accommodation in the forepart of the ship has allowed more of the hull envelope to be used for revenue-generating purposes, giving greater hold volume in the aft section and more cargo space on deck. It has also reduced overall tonnage, and provided more loading flexibility with regard to deck cargo and project shipments as line-of-sight is not an issue. Moreover, according to Wagenborg, this has allowed the accommodation to be placed lower than would be the case in a more conventional vessel configuration. The centre of gravity is accordingly lowered, improving ship stability and load capacity, while the ensuing foreship shape is more aerodynamic.   

Although many seafarers contend that a forward location of bridge and accommodation engenders more uncomfortable vessel motions, the wave-cutting nature of the EasyMax foreship form makes for reduced pitch while the greater distancing of navigating and living quarters from the machinery spaces means that the noise level is much lower. The high standard evidently achieved has contributed to the assignment of the COMF-Noise class notation by Bureau Veritas.

In fact, Wagenborg pays more than lip service to crew wellbeing and the importance of retaining trained and valued personnel, as evidenced in many facets of its latest ship. The forward mooring deck is enclosed, affording protection from the elements, entry to the underdeck cargo spaces is in the midship area between the two holds, and safe access is provided from the accommodation to the hatchcover crane.

The satellite connections are of an order that is aimed not only at operational needs but also of promoting crew welfare by facilitating communications with family back home and ensuring onboard TV and Internet access. Wagenborg recently awarded Castor Marine a multi-year contract covering the delivery of VSAT (very small aperture terminal) systems to more than 40 vessels, including the Egbert Wagenborg.

The highly distinctive new addition to the fleet set out on her maiden voyage from Delfzijl on April 30, making for the Swedish island of Gotland, where a consignment of limestone from the Nordkalk Storugns quarry was loaded for discharge at Kokkola, in Finland.

The bid for quality in all elements and at all stages of construction reflects the owner’s focus on maintaining condition and better ensuring asset value over the long-term in the rigorous trading environment of the northern latitudes.

From its roots in the coastal and short-sea trades, in which it retains a major stake, Wagenborg has evolved as a force in the dry cargo and project shipment markets as a whole, controlling more than 170 vessels in the 1,700dwt-23,000dwt band, including managed ships as well as tonnage wholly- or part-owned. Ice-strengthened, box-hold vessels predominate in a fleet with an average age of less than nine years.

The group has concurrently developed as an integrated logistics provider, with interests in stevedoring and terminal operation, warehousing, forwarding and road transport, towage, oil and gas support services and other fields.

Flexible BWMS demo

Prior to entry into trade, Egbert Wagenborg acted as a demonstration platform for the working of the IMO-certified, mobile InvaSave ballast water management system (BWMS) developed by the Damen Group. The presentation marked the culmination of a seven-year programme to devise an effective, transportable BWMS for use in ports.

The vessel was brought alongside the quay and a barge carrying the InvaSave 300 plant was positioned in front of the bow. Liquid cargo handling specialist and ship-to-ship operator MariFlex, which is providing the treatment service in the twin harbours of Delfzijl and Eemshaven, then made the hose connection between the ship and the barge-mounted unit. The ballast water was pumped out of the vessel through the InvaSave before being released into the harbour.

InvaSave is claimed to be the world’s first external ballast water unit conceived principally for deployment in ports, treating ballast to IMO D-2 standard to eliminate potentially invasive marine micro-organisms. MariFlex plans to have a second mobile unit operational in Rotterdam before the September implementation of IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention.


Length overall


Length bp






Air draught, in ballast


Draught, summer


Draught, winter


Draught, tropical


Deadweight, all-told


Deadweight carrying capacity, summer


Gross tonnage


Net tonnage


Cargo holds


Cargo hold capacity, bale/bulk


Main engine power



11.5 knots

Bow thruster



Bureau Veritas

Class notations

1 +HULL +MACH General cargo ship-heavy cargo (tanktop 150kN/m2, non-uniform 200kN/m2)-occasional dry bulk cargo, Unrestricted navigation, +AUT-UMS, +SYS-NEQ-1, MON-SHAFT, Ice Class 1A, InWaterSurvey




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