MV Werften: A perfect fit for Genting

MVW Stralsund where the Endeavor Class starts building in the first quarter of this year.
MVW Stralsund where the Endeavor Class starts building in the first quarter of this year.
What Germany's biggest ever cruise ship newbuilds will look like. The first 204.000gt Global Class newbuild is for delivery in 2020.
What Germany's biggest ever cruise ship newbuilds will look like. The first 204.000gt Global Class newbuild is for delivery in 2020.
MVW Wismar is the group’s most potent facility and the hub of its five-year, nine-ship production plan
MVW Wismar is the group’s most potent facility and the hub of its five-year, nine-ship production plan

Since its surprise creation nearly two years ago, MV Werften (MVW) has progressed a five-year newbuilding programme - comprising nine ships valued at €3.5 billion - which is breathing new life into the east German shipbuilding landscape, writes Germany correspondent Tom Todd.

Malaysia’s giant Genting Group set up MVW to build ships for its own three brands – Star Cruises, Dream Cruises and Crystal Cruises. In April 2016 it bought the three east German, Russian-owned Nordic Yards in Wismar, Stralsund and Rostock-Warnemünde, all in the east German coastal federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for around €240 million.

Their acquisition was unexpected. Just prior to it, Genting had taken over big ship repair and refurbishment specialist Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven (LWB) with much the same intention. It had indicated  that its future cruise ship newbuilding activity would be based there and that east German yards would play only an associate role.

The reversal of the plan caused consternation and disappointment in Bremerhaven turning city plans for port expansion upside down and leaving LWB without the orders it had turned away to concentrate on newbuilding development.

The reasons for the switch are clearer now. Genting needs the size and capacity of the east German locations to implement a colossal programme which Bremerhaven and its premier shipyard are not big enough to handle.

Having said that however LWB remains part of the Genting group as a repair and cruise ship refurbishment hub of note - a situation that could prove increasingly interesting down the line as Genting cruise ships age.  LWB has already refurbished its first older Genting ship –the 51,044gt Crystal Symphony and big sister Serenity could follow next year.

“The cruise business is globally experiencing strong growth”, said Genting chairman and CEO Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay. “This has led to very long lead times of up to10 years for large new cruise ships, since only few shipyards are specialised in the very challenging cruise ship construction process. We want to change this by having earlier delivery and incorporating the latest designs as ships are being built”.

With MVW now up and running, Genting is doing just that. It is building its own cruise ships in its own yards as and when it needs them, unfettered by the timetable restrictions of external yards.

Initial MVW production for Genting encompasses nine ships up to 2021. In addition to four Rhine Class river cruise ships for delivery by Wismar to Crystal Cruises in 2017 and 2018, production is starting this year at MVW Stralsund on the first of three 20,000gt “Endeavor Class” exploration cruise yachts for Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Also getting under way in 2018 in Stralsund and in Rostock-Warnemünde is work on the first of two 204,000gt “Global Class” cruise ships for Genting Cruises for handover in 2020 and 2021. And that is just the beginning, says Genting.

After 2021 a “heightened” production programme will kick in at MVW with two Global Class ships and two Endeavor cruise yachts planned for completion every year.

MVW Managing Director Jarmo Laakso said “Despite the enormous growth of the (cruise) market the potential has been nowhere-near exhausted. “Our building programme is focused on that strong demand – Genting has a clear long-term strategy”.

In an exclusive interview with The Motorship Laakso, who was part of the LWB management team before moving to Wismar, described the programme as challenging, unique and successful. He said the creation of MVW in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern “had brought about a substantial maritime industry upsurge in the state.

“We are working on a series of parallel projects. The investment programme is being implemented. Our recruiting drive and the build-up of our workforce are all running successfully. The building programme is unique and our workload is enormous.

“We now consciously see ourselves as being at the heart of the maritime economy and we are well aware of the high expectations that the state has placed on us. Our progress is being watched very closely indeed”, he told this correspondent.

The MVW yards in Wismar, Stralsund and Warnemünde are very different now from the sprawling entities they were in GDR days. In the 1990s they were revamped at great cost, largely paid by the taxpayers, and passed individually or collectively through the hands of a bewildering array of German and international owners. Those owners included Norway’s Kvaerner and Aker, Denmark’s Maersk, Germany’s Hegemann, P&S Werften and Russia’s Wadan prior to Nordic Yards.

Today as part of MVW they retain some of the largest docks and covered fabrication facilities in Europe. The Wismar yard is on an area of 560,000m2 with 170,000m2 of covered area and boasts a 340 x 67 x 72m covered building dock, a crane capacity of 1000t and a steel throughput of 60,000t a year. Rostock-Warnemünde, although bigger in area at 850,000m2, has 85,000m2 of covered area and a 320x54x80 building dock with 600t crane capacity and an annual steel throughput of 55,000t. The ‘smallest’ of the three, the former Volkswerft in Stralsund, covers 340,000m2 and has 90,000m2 of covered area and a 300x108x74m shipbuilding hall. It boasts a 1,000t crane capacity and a 60,000t annual steel throughput.

In 70 years the three yards have produced some 2,500 seagoing ships – including ocean-going cruise ships, river cruise vessels, sophisticated passenger ferries and, latterly, specialist offshore vessels. All have direct access to the Baltic in a region with a transport and logistics infrastructure which bears little resemblance to that before German reunification.

Having them work together again, pooling years of expertise, under a single management to tackle Genting’s complex cruise ship newbuilding demands makes a lot of sense.

Jarmo Laakso agrees. “The MV Werften locations have a long-standing tradition in shipbuilding and are close to the cluster of industries supporting cruise shipbuilding in Northern Europe. We have the experience and know-how to build cruise ships ...”.

It is not surprising also that the Genting move to the east, while disappointing for Bremerhaven, has been embraced by Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It has re-motivated yards and workforces facing an uncertain future after decades of cutbacks and corporate change and is proving a shot in the arm for an ailing local economy. Shipyards are now hiring instead of firing. MVW now employs 1500. The number is rising and job prospects are good. In September MVW took on 90 apprentices in five different professions, and 12 degree course students.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Economics Minister Harry Glawe is a big state Government supporter of the developments. “A new era in shipbuilding is being rung in with MV Werften”, he said. MVW now faced an “ambitious and impressive investment programme” and “the result is that hundreds of jobs have been secured and also created. Genting’s growing engagement will strengthen and expand Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s significance as a maritime location” he declared.

MVW’s first newbuilding was completed last August when the 135m long and 11.4m wide Crystal Bach – the first of four identical "Rhine Class" luxury river cruise ships for Genting’s Crystal Cruises – was handed over. For 110 passengers in 55 large suites, it was followed in September by Crystal Mahler. The last two ships in the current first series - Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel - are being delivered in this spring for European waterway service.

Crystal Cruises CEO Edie Rodriguez said "We have incorporated the best ocean ship navigational and safety standards on the Crystal fleet of river ships”. She added they had four Azimuth thrusters for easy manoeuvrability, forward bridges manned at all times and state-of-the- art navigation systems.

MVW spokesman Stefan Sprunk told the Motorship that the diesel-electric propulsion system on the Rhine Class ships, which have two engine rooms at bow and stern, comprises four electrically driven Schottel SCD 200 TWIN 360 kW rudder propellers and two Schottel SPJ 82 RD 340kW electricPumpjets in the forward engine room.

There are also two HANSA generator plants on board – two in the stern engine room and two in the bow engine room. Sprunk said the systems comprised MAN D 2862 LE 324 diesels of 700 kW and 800 kW and AEM WH 400 L4 generators of 675 kW and 770 kW.

Steel cutting on the first of the yard’s three 20,000gt Endeavor Class luxury expedition ships will also start this year – reportedly in March in Stralsund - with first delivery scheduled for 2019. The ships will have ice-class PC6 and are described as “capable all-rounders” because they are designed for both polar and tropics operation.

MVW has said that the 160m long and 23m wide ships will be the world’s largest and most spacious expedition cruise yachts accommodating up to 200 passengers in 100 suites and same-sized crews. They will also be among the first passenger ships classified to new DNV GL standards.

The design aspects of the Endeavor and Global Class ships appeared to involve a string of companies among them Foreship, Tillberg Design, AD Associates and Kudos Dsign. MVW also said design deals for Global were signed with Tillberg, SMC and Kudo and reported contracts involving Global with Elomatic and Deltamarin.

The three Endeavor ships and the first two Global Class giants will all get complete ABB propulsion systems, electric power plants, automation and marine software systems. They will be powered by two Azipod D units each, for polar conditions, while the two “Global Class” newbuilds will each have three Azipod XO thrusters. MVW said all the ships will also be fitted with ABB´s flagship automation Intelligent Manoeuvering Interface and OCTOPUS marine software for energy management.

Jarmo Laakso said “this full scope from ABB Marine and Ports will guarantee us the best available equipment and experienced high-level project management to work with”.

The 204,000gt Global Class giants – two now being built and more planned annually after 2021 – will be the the biggest ships ever built in Germany. MVW’s Laakso said they will also be “the world’s most modern and efficient cruise vessels with improved passenger flow and boarding".

At 340m long and 46m wide, the Panamax newbuilds will carry more than 5,000 passengers and 2,000 crew on 20 decks and in 2,400 cabins. They will dwarf even the biggest ships to date from leading German yard Meyer Werft, among them Genting’s two 151,000gt, 76,800kW cruise ship duo World Dream and Genting Dream delivered by Meyer in 2016 and 2017. They could well be the last ships built for Genting by an external yard.

As well as their ABB packages, each of the first two Global Class ships will be equipped with six Type 48/60CR engines from MAN Diesel & Turbo with a combined output of 96,000 kW. They will also have comprehensive Evac Complete Cleantech waste and water management systems. Evac has secured options for such equipment on two more newbuilds.

Its Cleantech systems include vacuum collection, waste-water treatment, dry and wet waste treatment as well as fresh water generation desalination plants. The fresh water treatment plants are based on reverse osmosis technology and will produce over 3,000 cubic meters of fresh water a day. The waste management systems will be the largest ever installed on cruise vessels.

“These environmentally friendly and energy efficient systems cover all the needs of these new ships”, said Jarmo Laakso. Evac’s Ljubo Jurisevic suggested the “one-stop” system actually simplifies the shipbuilding process. “Ease of co-operation is highly important in these types of complex, large cruise vessel projects where the number of different suppliers may be in the hundreds”, he added.

KONE will equip the first Global ships with elevators and escalators and has also bagged options on two more ships. It will deliver nine MonoSpace and 33 MiniSpace  elevators and 16 TravelMaster 110 escalators. It will also supply E-Link monitoring systems and special elevator operating modes for boarding, luggage handling, gangway and medical priorities. In addition, KONE will equip the first two "Endeavor" expedition ships and has an option to supply a further ship with passenger and service elevators.

As the newbuilding programme gathers speed, Genting is building up its supportive project management, design, planning, purchasing and production capacity and competence in house and at new sites in a way not seen in the east German shipbuilding for a long time.

Going into operation in summer is the new 285 x 99 x 24m high shipbuilding Hall 11 in Rostock. It will house panel and section assembly as well as a line for section outfitting. Costing some €80 million of a total €100 million earmarked for Rostock yard investment, it is one of the largest company investments in the region in decades.

Centrepiece of the hall will be a super efficient semi-automatic panel welding line. MVW says it will be one of the most advanced in the world and weld panels of up to 25 x 16m. Using laser-hybrid technology it allows high-speed, high quality welding with less heat.

Hall 11 will produce 80 large sections for each of the Global Class newbuildings, significantly increasing prefabrication capacity and productivity. It will also employ 200 people now and eventually 1,000.

In Wismar a new 9,000m2 in-house cabin manufacturing plant has begun operation. It will produce as many as 7,000 units per year by 2026 and supply fully prefabricated, state-of-the-art passenger and crew cabins for Global and Endeavor Class newbuildings.

“Fully prefabricated cabins are the most time-saving and cost-effective solution in cruise ship building” MVW said. The heart of the production area is a 75-metre long flowline, producing a cabin every 20 minutes or about 20 a day, in15 coordinated processes. Output will rise to around 7,000 cabins a year by 2026. The plant employs 50 now – a figure tipped to rise to 200 medium- term.

In what could be a further major job spin-off, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, along with the Berlin Government and Wismar City have pledged to consider funding a €35 million plan to deepen the approach channel to Wismar Port from 9.5m to11.5m because the creation of MVW with headquarters in Wismar has created a pressing need for deepening. Floating out is now also likely to be a major need in Stralsund and Rostock as production expands.

“Exciting ship projects are part of Genting strategy. A comprehensive investment programme for three shipyards, development into a top cruise facility and success with our first handovers – where else can you find all that in one package?” asks Jarmo Laakso.

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