German newbuilding: time for the specialists

P&S ‘repositions’ portfolio P&S ‘repositions’ portfolio

Times remain hard but German newbuilders are not giving up, writes Tom Todd. Specialist production changes underway almost everywhere to meet changing demand are being reflected in impressive newbuildings and in some unexpected new orders.

Specialist offshore ships and ferries lead the field. P&S Werften is among big yard groups changing course to survive. That was confirmed yet again as The Motorship went to press. Grouping Volkswerft in Stralsund and Peene-Werft in Wolgast, P&S announced surprise new work which could eventually mean six giant newbuildings.

Two firm orders were placed by OIG for 172m long heavy-lift and offshore installation ships equipped with state-of-the-art technology including GPS and worth an estimated €200 million. They will be named OIG Giant III and OIG Giant IV.

OIG also secured two options, but the icing on the cake was a comment from owners that: “There are at present good grounds for believing we could eventually also build numbers 5 and 6 in Stralsund”.

Reportedly for delivery up to 2013, the ships are not the first of their kind for P&S. It took an order in January for one of the world’s biggest heavy-lift offshore construction ships, worth more than €100 million. For completion next year that 180m long and 32m wide newbuilding will have cable-laying capability and boast GPS. It is for an unidentified Far East-based owner and news of the latest work sparked speculation that might also be OIG. However P&S spokeswoman Britt Fischer-Jahn told this correspondent that was not the case.

P&S Chairman Dieter Brammertz said the latest orders prove the “ability of the group to compete on the international market”. They were milestones in the re-positioning of the production portfolio in Stralsund and in establishing Volkswerft as “one of the leading shipbuilders in the offshore installation ship sector”, he declared.

It is difficult to disagree, given that the group’s yards in Stralsund and Wolgast (where production centres on smaller ships) now have 22 orders between them for completion up to mid 2013. They have a busy year behind them as well, delivering, among others, the 34,470dwt Gülbeniz A – the last of 35 2,500TEU container ships built in Stralsund since 1997 - and two 135m river cruise ships.

Ferries now feature high on the order list. Scandlines has two 169m passenger/car ferries on order with the first, Berlin, floating out in November and the second, Copenhagen, in January. Also booked are two 195m ro-ro freight ferries for delivery to DFDS up to mid-2012, five novel, ice-going coastal cargo vessels for Greenland’s Royal Arctic Line and three of four 52m patrol ships worth €90 million still to build for the Swedish Coast Guard.  

Innovative Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) demonstrated just what switching course is all about more than a decade ago, moving from container to ro-ro ships. It is now a world leader because of this. In late August it named and launched Seatruck Progress - its smallest ro-ro ship to date and the first of four, high-performance freight ferry newbuildings being delivered between November and next June for Irish Sea service with Seatruck.

The 18,920gt ships are just 142m long, dimensions dictated by the size of the small English port of Heysham. Despite their size they boast an impressive 2,166 lane metres on four decks. Two MAN 7L48/60CR main engines deliver 21 knots and still meet high emission/consumption demands.

FSG MD Peter Sierk said: “We are expanding our portfolio by adding smaller but otherwise extremely efficient ships. In this way we will be more attractive to many customers on a keenly contested global market”.

FSG has this year delivered two standard length con-ro freight ferries – the 195.4m long Bore Sea and Bore Song to Finland’s Bore - 2,900 lane metre, 19-knot ships which demonstrate again why FSG is ahead of the Asians. The yard now has work in hand into 2013 with its three further ships for Seatruck and three more freight ferries for Ulusoy in Turkey. It says further orders “are in the planning stage” and indeed there is talk of them soon.

Smaller yards like Neptun and Sietas continue to defend their corners with new ferries, albeit smaller ones, as well as with specialist ships. Meyer subsidiary Neptun in Warnemünde was outfitting the double-ended Schleswig-Holstein as The Motorship went to press. The 75.9m passenger/car ferry was for delivery in November to German owner WDR and is a rare departure for a yard which has specialised in inland cruise ships in recent years. Neptun has built 16 to date, delivering the latest in July to Viking, and still has orders in hand for more.

WDR said it chose Neptun over Sietas, which built sister Uthlande last year, because Neptun had offered “the best overall package” for the newbuild. Unofficial reports said she was costing about €16 million. She will carry up to 75 vehicles and 1,200 passengers and have four Caterpillar main Diesels of type 3508C-DITA-SCAC configured with four Voith Schneider drives, two at each end and providing a service speed of 12 knots.

Schleswig-Holstein is not the only big production switch at Neptun this year. Apart from being involved in building and outfitting parent Meyer’s first LNG ship, the yard, once Germany’s greatest shipyard, made a major technological breakthrough by winning a Government order worth €124.4 million for a new research ship. For delivery in 2013 the ship will replace the existing Sonne. No details are available yet and building is not due to start until late next year.

Ferries are also in the news at Sietas with the first of three 99.9m double-end day newbuilds worth €60 million due for delivery before year’s end. The 4,780 gt Samsø boasts 624 lane metres and is being followed by two sisters in early 2012. The Diesel-electric ships, for Danish owner Sydfynske, are driven by 4 x 850kW engines, with a speed of 16 knots.

On order for delivery in September next year is the first jack-up vessel for offshore wind farm construction to be ordered at a German yard, says Sietas. Van Oord secured an option for a second ship of the same type. The innovative Type 187 ships will be 139m long and 38m wide and be capable of speeds of 12 knots. Sietas Group crane maker NMF will install special offshore cranes with 30m outreach and 900t capacity.

In Spring, Sietas completed the €60 million Lone for SAL to follow sister Svenja. They were billed as the world’s most efficient heavy-lift carriers, each with two 1,000ton capacity NMF cranes. The 160.6m, 12,975dwt Lone boasts DP2 against Svenja’s DP1.

As with current work at P&S, FSG and indeed Neptun, the latest Sietas orders reflect changing production after a difficult period. CEO Rüdiger Fuchs said the jack-up order “provides us with an entry point into the growth market that is the offshore wind industry” and added the yard had “beaten off tough competition from the Netherlands, China and the UAR”.

Fuchs said the yard was able to offer a turnkey solution from a single source, and also noted: “We were more competitive than the other bidders in terms of service and price”.

Nordic Yards in Wismar and Warnemünde appeared in slightly better shape this Autumn thanks to some offshore wind energy sector work, but a lack of new orders up ahead has to be worrying. However, a positive yard owner Vitaly Yusofov stressed his yard was striving to specialise and said Nordic was “making progress” and meeting the challenges of a difficult shipbuilding market.

Nordic is building two offshore transformer platforms for Siemens Energy. BorWin Beta and HelWin1 are for installation in offshore wind energy farms. They were being built at both Nordic yards with the first in operation by the end of 2012 and the second in early 2013. Dimensions were not reported. However ADM’s Nobiskrug Yard in Rendsburg also has a Siemens order and said its 14m high, three-deck platform, for delivery May 2012, was 37.5m long, 34.5m wide and weighed 2,500 tons.

Nordic is hoping for more ice-breaking tanker work like Yenisei, a 170m, 18,500dwt newbuild for Norilsk Nickel being delivered late September. For service on Russian Arctic routes, the €100 million ship can break ice of up to 1.5m and operate in temperatures down to -50°C. Yusofov said the ship was “the first contract of the strategy on which we are focusing, i.e. the development and production of Arctic ships".

In Papenburg, leading newbuilder Meyer Werft continues to stay on top and rides the crises. Worries mid last year of short-time working among its 2,500 employees have since been eased by spectacular new orders.

In October last, old customer NCL booked two 143,500gt cruise ships for delivery Spring 2013 and 2014 and worth about €1.2 billion. They are the eighth and ninth booked by NCL and Meyer said they will be the largest passenger/cruise ships built in Germany. But not for long it seems.

In February Meyer signed a letter of intent with RCI for the first of a new generation of 158,000gt ships –codenamed ‘Project Sunshine’. The first, for more than 4,100 passengers, will be ready in autumn 2014 and there is an option for a second for delivery Spring 2015.

Announcing the RCI work, Bernard Meyer said the RCI projects “always present incredible opportunities for Meyer Werft to create the latest cutting edge hardware in the cruise industry”.

As well as the cruise ships, versatile Meyer booked an order in January for its first LNG tanker - a 156m, 15,600m3 ship for delivery end 2012 to Holland’s Veder. It acknowledged it is entering brand new territory but Bernard Meyer predicted “a great future” for the type and said the yard would concentrate on mid-scale ships.

This year Meyer has delivered two big ships. In July it was the 122,210gt Celebrity Silhouette, fourth in a series of five for Celebrity Cruises, and in March it was the 71,300gt AIDAsol. The latter was the fifth in a series of seven for German cruise operator AIDA Cruises and the seventh ship built over the years by Meyer for the Germany-based operator.

In August, however, that owner dropped a bombshell. It said its next two ships, the biggest so far at 125,000gt, would be built at Mitsubishi in Japan for around €455 million. It said the new ships would have many new product and environmental features.

A Meyer spokesman was quoted as saying the yard regretted the move and as saying Japan prices were “very different” from Europe. The German shipbuilding association VSM also expressed concern about what it said was a low price. It speculated Japan was trying to get a foothold in the sector and regretted that a German shipowner was opening the door.

Last February, Bernard Meyer had warned of Chinese cruise shipping potential and tipped that China would before long build its own cruise ships.

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