New sea-river coaster class for UK operator
Operating economics and relative shipbuilding costs have fostered a shift towards larger vessels in the European coastal and short-sea trades, reducing the availability of vessels able to access length- or draught-restricted, small ports and harbours, and thereby limiting opportunities for waterborne freight transportation in those areas, writes David Tinsley.
This trend gives added significance to fleet developments involving vessels under 3,000dwt. One such notable programme is that of UK-based Union Transport, which is playing to its strengths by investing in a new series of coasters able to serve many small upriver and estuarial terminals and also penetrate deep into the European inland waterway system.
The 2,574dwt Union Gold, the first of three newbuilds ordered from the Damen Shipyards Group, was brought into service in 2010, followed this year by sisterships Union Silver and Union Bronze. The new class encapsulates the Damen Combi Coaster 2500 design, developed by the Dutch international shipbuilding group through close attention to market feedback and discussion with clients, and offering a maximum underdeck load intake of 121,000ft3 (3,425m3) on a length overall of less than 88m.
Moreover, with the hydraulic pillar-mounted wheelhouse and masts lowered, the Union Gold type can be ‘flattened-down‘ to give an air draught of only 6.5m in ballast, enabling navigation under bridge crossings to access upriver or inland destinations.
While design allows for trade on the Rhine, Main, Mosel, Maas/Meuse, Seine, Rhone and other waterways, Union Transport has brought its new generation to bear on a contract of affreightment with ArcelorMittal entailing shipments of steel products from Ghent to ports and terminals in the UK.
The Combi Coaster 2500 series affords a very wide scope as to cargo type and also parcel size, by virtue of a single, box-like hold, incorporating two movable grain bulkheads with 13 stowage positions. The hold’s strengthened, flush sides and tanktop, freedom from underhang and ease of accessibility, are especially suited to cargoes such as steel coils and long products, and also forestry goods, containers and other unitised freight, including pre-loaded flat racks, as well as the main short-sea bulk commodities. The electrically-driven hold ventilation system provides for six air changes per hour.
The ship’s main engine is a product of the Ghent factory of ABC Diesel, and is a six-cylinder model of the MDZC type, producing 1,104kW at 800rpm. The unit is designed to run on marine diesel oil (MDO), and drives a nozzled, fixed pitch Lips propeller through a Reintjes reverse/reduction gearbox. In the Union Gold, the installation ensured a trial speed of 11.2 knots at full power, with the vessel in a light condition at ballast draught.
The hulls for all three coasters were subcontracted by Damen to the Ceske Lodenice shipyard at Decin-Kresice, in the Czech Republic, with outfitting and completion undertaken by Damen Shipyards Bergum, in the north Netherlands. Damen has initiated production of a series of similar vessels in Vietnam, and some of these are understood to have been sold to German and Dutch owners. The Combi Coaster concept was originally introduced by Damen in the 1980s and has been progressively expanded and refined, providing the market with a family of efficient designs.
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