Yards stay busy as production switches bite

27 Jan 2014
Asian newbuilds for Ferus Smit

Asian newbuilds for Ferus Smit

According to Tom Todd, both large and small yards in Germany are reaping the benefits of diversification and streamlined production, and have attracted some significant newbuild orders despite some still-unresolved failures along the way.

Reporting an upswing in orders recently Reinhard Lueken, head of the German shipbuilding association VSM, said: “It’s fascinating how our engineers continue to develop solutions to meet increasing customer demands while at the same time constantly keeping costs in mind”.

A recent study for VSM said the German industry remained strong even if the main problems had not gone away. Flexibility, ingenuity and adaptability were still the order of the day as German yards enter new markets and meet new technological challenges, it indicated.

Yards still face acute domestic economic and financing problems and fierce cheaper Asian competition. Thankfully however there are occasional heart-warmers to redress the balance - like the 150,000gt cruise ship order for Meyer from Asia’s Star Cruises or the six 10,500dwt cargo ships Ferus Smit is now building for Singapore.

Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) is doing just what Reinhard Lueken admires so much about German shipbuilding. “For years we have been the world leader in building ro-ro ferries”, said FSG MD Peter Sierk. “The challenge now is to open up a brand new sector. We have achieved this by making innovative changes to our operations, design and production just at the right moment with the result that we are now well on the way to establishing a good reputation in specialised shipbuilding as well”, he said.

He’s talking about offshore-related production, but even that is now being further expanded with an order just revealed to The Motorship.

It’s from Harms Bergung in Hamburg for two multi-role long-range anchor-handling tug and supply (AHTS) ships with hull numbers BNR 761/762. They will be the first of their kind ever built at FSG. Plans are to have the contracts take effect at the end of January, the yard said. Technical details were not initially available.

The two 151.5m semi-submersible, heavy-lift ships booked at FSG by Holland’s Rolldock are also brand new types. The second is being delivered in May to follow Rolldock Star, handed over late 2013.

They are billed as both operationally versatile, particularly in the offshore sector, and multi-functional. Mr Sierk said the ships, and others now on order, demonstrated changes now underway at FSG.

The 8,000dwt Rolldock ships offer a range of loading variants including submerging 12m for cargo float in and out.

Also pioneers are FSG’s two 127m seismic ships for delivery in March and October to Western Geco. The first, Amazon Warrior, was launched in November to mark FSG’s first step into offshore.

“What has so far been just theory has now become reality and everyone can see it”, said Mr Sierk of Amazon Warrior. “Our shipyard has… taken the first steps into what is, for us, a completely new market sector – one which has a lot of potential for the future.” He praised Western Geco for its courage in entrusting the order to FSG, which had never before built an offshore ship.

FSG was on more familiar ground in August when it handed over the 210m long con-ro Oceanex Connaigra to Canadian owners. Even so, this ship was also special and designed by FSG engineers.

She has an unusually high deadweight tonnage for a con-ro ferry and is suitable for both container and rolling cargo transport. Of 19,300dwt she is very flexible with 13,700 m² of loading area and is also said to use about 30% less fuel than previous ships for an annual reduction of 20,000 tons of CO2. An innovative waste gas de-sulphurisation plant already meets the ECA new emission limits due into force from 2015.

Finally, FSG said it will deliver the more conventional 116m ro-pax Loch Seaforth, in July 2014. Owners CMAL said the ship, which will carry 700 passengers and 143 cars in round-the-clock service, would launch in February.

In the 1990s FSG built a series of best-selling container feeder ships called Ecobox. Dutch-owned Ferus Smit in Leer is now building six 10,500dwt cargo ships of the same name for a Singapore owner.

The bulbless newbuildings are for delivery in 2015 and 2016 and few technical details were initially revealed. But they were billed as multi-purpose, fuel efficient, low emission, flexible, self-sustaining and with 10,000dwt plus cargo capability in a single hold

The Leer yard was meanwhile launching Reggeborg in December. She’s the second of three 23,000dwt ships and at 170m close to the size limit for newbuilds at the yard. The planned side-launch of Reggeborg was being anticipated as a rare and spectacular event as The Motorship went to press.

Meyer Werft booked a trio of impressive new orders in 2013 for the biggest ships it has ever built - of 167,800, 163,000 and 150,000gt and the new work will have come as a relief. It demonstrates that austerity measures introduced in early 2013 are biting. Taken to combat Asian rivals, they were aimed at upping productivity, cutting “expensive” prices and saving €60 million in 2013 alone.

The measures came after AIDA and TUI, Germany’s leading brands, went to Asia for their latest ships. The loss was compounded by AIDA being a regular Meyer customer from the beginning.

The fact that one of the new 2013 orders came from Asia will, therefore, have raised morale somewhat at Meyer. It was from leading Asian cruise company Star Cruises and Bernard Meyer noted, no doubt with some pleasure: “It is a great challenge to create a state-of- the-art cruise vessel specifically for the Asian market”.

For delivery in autumn 2016, Star’s 150,000gt newbuilding will be the seventh in its fleet. More to the point, the €700 million newbuild will keep about 3,100 yard employees and about 20,000 people in supply and partner companies busy for over two years.

Similar economic benefits will accrue from the second big order of 2013. It was from NCL for a second 163,000gt Breakaway Plus Class newbuilding for delivery in 2017. Along with the first Breakaway Plus ship, for delivery in October 2015, the duo will be the largest in the NCL fleet. Together they are costing about €1.4 billion and are the 10th and 11th cruise ships to be built by Meyer for NCL.

The new Breakaway Plus Class will be similar to NCL’s smaller 146,000gt Breakaway class, the first of which, Norwegian Breakaway, was delivered by Meyer last April. The second, Norwegian Getaway, was being delivered as 2014 got underway. They are the biggest luxury cruise ships completed by Meyer so far - a record which will only stand until autumn.

That’s when Meyer’s biggest ship ever, the 167,800gt, 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas, will be ready for RCI. Sister Anthem of the Seas is already under build for delivery in spring 2015. RCI was responsible for Meyer’s biggest order of 2013 - a third Quantum Class ship for delivery mid 2016.

Still doing well with very different newbuilding work was Nordic Yards. The Russian-owned concern is busy with offshore transformer platforms until 2017, but is increasingly active again in building ships.

For delivery to Russia in 2015 are the yard’s two innovative new multi-purpose 88m rescue and salvage ships. The keel for the first was laid in November. The IB6 ice-classified newbuilds will see wide-ranging service on Russia’s northern Polar seas routes.

Nordic was also building a 2,500 ton, fully-fitted deckhouse for the new Russian LK-25 icebreaker, being built at the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg. A deckhouse completion date was not given but the icebreaker is expected to enter service in late 2015.

For delivery in the second quarter of this year is a 80m wind turbine service ships with jack-up installation capability for Denmark’s DBB which has secured options for two more. Fred Wegener, Nordic’s engineering and production chief, said: “The demand for innovative offshore maintenance ships will continue to rise and we are in an excellent position to meet its requirements”.

As of early December, Nordic was the lead bidder for Stralsunder Schiffbaugesellschaft (SSG) – the new interim name for the bankrupt P+S Yards facility Volkswerft, still unsold as of early December after other interested parties pulled out.  

Nordic was reported to be interested in taking over in the autumn and using Volkswerft to expand its offshore platform and special ship building. Moscow said it supports the bid. The problem appeared to be price but the lack of job guarantees was reported as causing union concern.

Tatarstan concern Ak Bars said it was no longer interested and French shipbuilding firm DCNS said talk of a possible French-German investment consortium bid was not the case.

Replacing them, reportedly, as The Motorship went to press was Hamburg-based New Global Power (NGW) which appeared to be the only bidder proposing a wider regional industrial park concept built around the shipyard.

Completion of Volkswerft’s two remaining newbuilding orders, meanwhile, was delayed several months and into the New Year. Word was that the first of the two195.2m long, 3,000 lane-metre ro-ro ships for DFDS, Ark Germania, would be handed over in January and the second in April. The official reason for the delay was owner additions to the original contracts.

Movement was also reported in efforts to sell off bankrupt J.J.Sietas Werft in Hamburg, insolvent since 2011. However here again no deal was evident as of early December as Sietas was completing the 139m offshore turbine transport and installation vessel Aeolus for van Oord.

The Bangladeshi AK Khan Group, one of the biggest shipbuilding concerns in southeast Asia, talked with receivers about establishing a possible joint venture with Sietas in Chittagong. A delegation from Chinese ship and crane builder ZPMC also visited the yard. It was reported interested in the yard’s specialist newbuilding and design capabilities. Receiver Berthold Brinkmann was quoted as saying one model could be building prototypes in Hamburg for series building in China.

Work was beginning in March at Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven on the completion of the 33,000gt Ceona Amazon. It’s the first newbuilding project since 2010 at the yard, now expanding again out of its better-known role as a specialist repair, conversion and completion facility.

MD Ruediger Pallentin told The Motorship that 2013 had been a busy year and said that had continued into 2014. Pallentin cautioned however that “much depends on how the markets develop for our customers – the shipowners”.

The hull of the new Ceona Amazon, a 33,000gt multi-functional pipelayer, was being towed to Bremerhaven in March after building at Poland’s Crist Shipyard. LWB will complete and outfit her up to the end of next October, after which she will move to Huisman in Holland for the installation of pipe-laying equipment.

Described as the first of a new generation of ultra-modern pipe-layers, the newbuilding will be 199.4m long and 32.2m wide and function as a ‘factory ship’ for the continuous manufacture and laying of flexible and fixed pipes to depths of 3,000m.

The Ceona project marks not only the expansion of the yard’s offshore newbuilding experience but also the deepening of its co-operation with Crist, which was involved in earlier newbuilding projects at LWB.

Yacht and boat building continues to impress. A rare indication of what the sector is now worth to German yards came in a Statistikamt Nord ahead of the 2013 ‘Hanseboot’ fair in Hamburg. It said 21 firms employing more than 20 people turned over €1.2 billion in 2012 – an increase of 18% over 2011.

The scale and value of some of the ships beggers belief as does the time taken to build (and also repair) them. The biggest ever built, the 180m Azzam,  was recently delivered by Luerssen. The yard also completed the 85.1m charter yacht Solandge describing her as “the very latest in high-end luxury cruising”.

SWATH specialist Abeking & Rasmussen delivered the 82.5m Secret driven by two Cat 1,495 kW engines and the biggest yacht built so far by that small yard. Privinvest remained busy at its ADM Kiel facility with the sailing yacht project White Pearl, described as the most secretive yacht project ever undertaken in Germany. She has been under build in a specially constructed and guarded hall in Dock 8 since March 2012. Reports said she will be of about 140m and be the world’s biggest sailing yacht when completed in 2015 or 2016.

Just as rare as value indications are technical details of yacht newbuilds: contracts forbid them. Blohm + Voss in Hamburg however made an exception recently with its latest yacht project Graceful.

That 82m long, 14m wide and 17.6 knot newbuilding was being delivered to unidentified owners after sea-trials in December.

B+V said one reason the yard was chosen was the unique and complex equipment and design characteristics offered, including a 15m x 3m indoor pool which can be converted into a dance floor by raising the pool floor. The owner’s area with a duplex suite has direct access to the sea via a folding balcony.

Naval newbuilding remains another pillar for some yards. Being completed at Peene-Werft for new owner Luerssen was bow work on 70m long F125 frigates. The ships are part of a €-multi-million Berlin contract being shared by Luerssen and B+V.

Luerssen was still hopeful of winning a pending Saudi order for coastal patrol boats of 30-40m worth some €1.5 billion as well as reported orders for 70 police boats of 15m length. Berlin still had to approve the armaments exports as of early December, but hopes were high this would happen by year’s end. Luerssen meanwhile made a leap of faith and opened Europe’s biggest steel cutting plant at Peene-Werft costing around €0.5million, and a source close to the yard told The Motorship Peene was “certainly being earmarked as the yard to build the (Saudi) boats”.

There was hope in Kiel at HDW that Berlin would approve further Saudi interest in five Type 209 German submarines worth a reported €2.5 billion. And in Rendsburg, Nobiskrug was this year delivering the second of two 58m, 1,000dwt multi-purpose ro-ro naval tenders which reports said were for Abu Dhabi. The first of the ships, Rmah, was completed in November.

Finally, small yards have been tackling some innovative special newbuilds. One is Germany’s first combined passenger/ cargo ferry with LNG propulsion, just ordered by AG Ems from Fassmer for completion in 2015.

The 79.9m, 20 knot ship, costing some €30 million, will carry 1,000 passengers and have a deck crane for loading up to ten 10ft reefer containers.

AG Ems said the contract followed “many months of negotiation in which the parameters of a new generation of ocean-going ship were laid down”. The newbuild’s propulsion system will be based on Wärtsilä dual fuel technology with LNG the primary fuel for main and auxiliary engines and a switch to marine diesel possible. Wärtsilä is also providing gearboxes, CP propellers and the LNG tank and fuel system, which includes a facility for using latent heat from the LNG to help power the ship’s HVAC system.

Fassmer delivered the new 41.52m research ship Fugro Helmert – designed for exploration into renewable energy resources and the yard’s third similar newbuild for Fugro. And Hitzler Werft handed over one of the most modern inland river tankers ever built – the 86m Type C double hulled Dettmer Tank 140, costing €6million. The tanker was “very unusual, especially below the surface”, Dettmer said, with two eight-cylinder MTU series 4000 M 53 R main engines and Reintjes WAF 562 gears providing excellent manoeuvrability.

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