Japan faces a crisis

Once again, in The Motor Ship of June 1968, the Japanese shipbuilding industry was making headlines. Following its rapid rise, thanks to high levels of government investment, shipyards in Japan faced the prospect of a decline thanks to rising costs and a general slowdown in orders.

When Japan was on the rise, cheap labour helped the yards win orders over the established European shipbuilders, based on low Japanese pricing. In mid-1968, however, costs of wages and raw materials were increasing even faster in Japan than elsewhere, and Japanese yards feared they would lose competitiveness. They were therefore seeking international agreements “whereby suicidal competition in costs can be eliminated.”

European shipyards, having already suffered severely thanks to Japanese expansion, were not expected to be particularly sympathetic to Japan’s plight. On the other hand, said our predecessors, the global shipbuilding industry was in danger of collapse unless unfair competition, resulting from government subsidies, was stifled, and prices encouraged to return to sustainable levels.

As far as the ships themselves were concerned, The Motor Ship noted a recent increase in numbers of gas carriers. One example, the Humboldt, was reviewed. This was a 5,165dwt LPG tanker, built at La Ciotat in France for Ocean Gas Transport. The ship was originally ordered by a Chilean concern, but purchased mid-build by Houlder, OGT’s parent. Humboldt featured a fully-automated engine room, the most significant of several modifications introduced by the new owner. Gas was carried in six flexibly-mounted steel tanks, arranged for maximum flexibility, and allowing carriage of butane, propane, ammonia, propylene and butadiene down to -48° C at 6.3 atmos working pressure. The 5,600 bhp MAN 7KZ 57/80E main engine installation was designed for unmanned operation, with the engineering crew normally working during daytime only. The engineering and deck officers were all fully trained in operating the gas systems, thus dispensing with a specialised gas officer, and, interestingly, they felt that the general levels of safety onboard were better than on most oil tankers.

Another recent introduction designed for unmanned engine room operation was the Esso Baltica, a 5,500 dwt short sea product tanker built in the Netherlands. This ship featured a geared twin-engine installation, running at a constant 500 rpm, driving a CP propeller and two alternators. The alternator drives were geared up to 1,200 rpm, each alternator of 1,400 kVA output, said to be exceptionally high for a ship of this size. This electrical output was said to be necessary to operate three deep-well cargo pumps – Esso Baltica was designed to carry up to four different grades of oil products, and with the capability to discharge any three simultaneously. This arrangement enabled auxiliary generators to be dispensed with, the ship relying on its two MAN G9V 30/45 main  engines as well as a 230 kVA harbour/emergency genset. All machinery is designed to be simply controlled from the bridge – the engines being non-reversing and constant speed, with manoeuvring handled by the Kamewa CP propeller and 300hp bow thruster.

Finally, the recently-added shiprepair pages described International Paints’ introduction of the Brushboat which, it was claimed, could clean the underwater hull surface of the largest vessels afloat in less than three hours. Fouling would be removed by brushes with a 25ft outreach, telescopically extending another 25ft to clean down to 50ft (15m) depth, with divers cleaning the hull bottom where the brushes could not reach. International offered a service contract, allowing a ship’s service speed to be maintained over two years with regular cleaning of the company’s scrubbable coatings.

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