Bold operators, designers act on emerging opportunities
The European shortsea sector is introducing technical innovations to make the most of limited market opportunities in difficult times, by David Tinsley.
While a weak earnings environment prevails in core intra-European trades, with shortsea cargo vessel and minibulker tonnage supply in most categories outstripping demand, owners and operators are demonstrating both resourcefulness and technical innovation in tapping new market opportunities. The challenges of embarking on fleet reinvestment at the present time are compounded by tightening environmental controls and the overarching need to derive heightened, long-term efficiency from expenditure on new assets.
The maritime cluster in the Netherlands has a long tradition and retained vigour in the design and construction of vessels suited to multifarious freight transport in coastal and shortsea waters. It has proved adept at augmenting the multipurpose concept while optimising cargo capacity and reducing unit running costs. Recent endeavours have featured the development of designs suited to evolving, promising segments of the business, including shipments of components for offshore and onshore wind farms. Engineering aspects of these solutions are especially salient to the drive for operational flexibility, efficiency and service dependability.
This progression in small, multi-purpose cargo vessel design and engineering is expressed in a series of 6,000dwt shortsea traders conceived in mind of the special requirements of outsize loads, offshore wind turbines, steel fabrications and assemblies, machinery, cable drums, craft and other such consignments, as well as the general run of commodities and products. A dynamic positioning capability allows for offshore deployments, enabling wind turbine structures and elements to be delivered to the installation site.
First-of-class Jaguar was handed over in June to Jaguar Shipping of Vlieland, and is set to be followed by sisterships Abis Dover and Abis Dublin, to the account of Abis Shipping of Harlingen. The vessel design was developed by Vuyk Engineering Groningen(VEG) in collaboration with the owners and Delfzijl-based freight management company Amasus Shipping.
The type is technically distinguished in its diesel-electric power and propulsion system using a direct current(DC) bus and active front end(AFE) rectifiers, six Scania diesel gensets in a redundant machinery layout, and twin Z-drive propulsors. Construction was assigned to Groningen shipbuilding contractor Shipkits, using its Szczecin yard in Poland, with final outfitting at Harlingen.
A new concept and configuration of small cargo vessel tailored to the needs of long and odd-size cargoes such as offshore equipment and windmills has been brought to realisation by the Hartman Marine Group of Urk. The 3,500dwt Oceanic reflects a recognition by Hartman and its shipping and shipmanagement arm Global Seatrade of changing market requirements and evolving transport models in the heavy load/project cargo sector, and of opportunities arising from a perceived lack of fit-for-purpose vessels. Characterised by its high freeboard and narrow superstructure placed on the starboard side of the stern, the design was developed by the owner in conjunction with Conoship International and Vuyk Engineering Groningen, and is dubbed the Hartman M2 Runner type.
In a shortsea context, Oceanic takes optimisation of the hull envelope and also the above-deck area for revenue-earning to a new level. Within a 3,000gt ‘paragraph’, she offers a total square metre capacity equivalent to that of much larger vessels, and is also classed for ‘open top’ operation. She is claimed to confer considerably more scope for windmill structures and parts than any other coaster of 3,500dwt, embodying a total area more usually obtained with a 6,000 dwt ship.
Using a Centraalstaal-supplied building kit, construction was undertaken at Shipkits’ Szczecin yard, with final completion at Hartman Marine Shipbuilding’s site in Urk, on the IJsselmeer. A second Hartman M2 Runner is in hand under the same build system for delivery in the final quarter of 2012, and a third of class is foreseen.
The 219,000ft³ hold is equipped with a removable, adjustable tweendeck, and is exceptional for its width of 12.5m in the upper area and 12.0m in the lower area, only 0.5m and 1.0m respectively less than the ship’s moulded breadth. The vessel can sail in ‘open top’ configuration with the hatchcovers lifted and stowed clear, allowing the transportation of tall or large elements such as wind turbine sections or other consignments surpassing the height of the hold.
The asymmetrical superstructure, positioned right aft on the starboard quarter, enables the vessel to maximise deck stowage of long and awkward sized items of freight. The clear deck area on the port quarter thereby forms part of the continuous weatherdeck, allowing the ship to load deck cargo over an unobstructed length of 90m.
Oceanic has an extremely compact main engine installation in the shape of a Wärtsilä 6L20 diesel producing 1,200kW, giving a laden service speed of around 12 knots for a modest rate of gas oil consumption at about 5.5t per day.
An exceptionally efficient new class of shortsea cargo vessel, capable of penetrating the European inland waterway system, has entered service this year with Wijnne Barends. The 3,700dwt Lady Anna gave first form to the Sea-River Liner 3700-type developed by Groot Ship Design in cooperation with Conoship International, and has been quickly followed out of Groningen Shipyard by sisters Lady Anneke, Lady Alexandra and Lady Amalia.
The design is distinguished by its modest main engine power of 749kW relative to what constitutes a high payload for a sea-river coaster. As a modern-day ‘paragrapher’, the installed power is such that there is no mandatory requirement for an engineer.
The hull form and hull envelope have been optimised for coastal operation and also for navigation of the Trollhattan Canal in Sweden as well as for sailing the Rhine and Seine. The wheelhouse is hydraulic column-mounted, for lowering under bridges. The single, box-like hold provides 181,000ft³ of cargo volume, and the vessel draws 4.9m at the 3,700t scantling deadweight, with 3,000dwt on 4.3m design draught, and a 2,070dwt all-up capacity on 3.4m river or canal draught.
The technical focus has been on hydrodynamic aspects in conjunction with limited propulsion power and a versatile hold space. The Caterpillar 3508 engine provides for a speed of 10 knots at the design draught and drives a Wärtsilä fixed pitch propeller, which incorporates a nozzle so as to maximise thrust and maintain speed in difficult conditions. The body lines are the result of CFD(computational fluid dynamics) calculations made by Van Oossanen & Associates and model tests conducted at Marin in cooperation with DST in Duisburg. Handling in restricted waters is much assisted by a 265kW bow thruster.
Positive results from the design in operation, as well as the delivery precision and build quality obtained at Groningen Shipyard, have led to negotiations to extend the Wijnne Barends programme to eight vessels.
DSM Shipbrokers of Meppel has developed a flexible coastal and river cargo ship, known as the Green Cape Trader, characterised by a highly economical fuel consumption. The 2,300dwt design, of 88m length overall, employs a diesel-electric propulsion system, comprising two relatively small units of 750kW and capable of achieving a fully-laden speed of 10 knots.
The first of the new class is to be built by Scheepswerf De Kaap, to the order of Dutch interests. It is claimed that the unusual and low powering arrangements for the vessel promise a consumption rate of some 3,200/3,300 litres of diesel per 24 hours, compared with 4,400-5,400 litres/24 h needed by similar vessels with conventional propulsion installations. The low air-draught vessel will be suited to trade to inland ports on the Rhine, and also on waterways such as the Rhone and the Albert Canal, and the same basic design can be delivered with a higher wheelhouse as a general coaster.
A versatile addition to the Finnish merchant fleet has put down a new marker for the industry by transporting a trans-Baltic cargo using 100% biofuel in the ship’s main engines.
The 4,350dwt deck carrier Meri, delivered in June from STX Finland’s Rauma yard, employs an electric propulsion system powered by three Wärtsilä 6L20 main gensets capable of running on various types of liquid bio-fuels (LBF) as well as marine diesel oil. Undertaking a voyage with a cargo of pulpwood for forestry products group UPM, Meri accomplished what is believed to have been the world’s first commercial shipment made wholly on bio-oil. The virtually sulphur-free biofuel bunker fuel used is a waste-derived bio-oil produced by Sybimar in Uusikaupunki.
Chartered and operated by Meriaura, the Meri is suited to heavy loads, project and industrial cargoes such as wind farm structures and components, as well as bulk materials including biomass. The latest ship builds on experience with the 4,700dwt Aura, commissioned in 2008.
In addition to taking the concept forward through her biofuel-ingestion capability, Meri incorporates a sophisticated electric powering and propulsion system, conferring a double-acting quality whereby the ship can run efficiently stern-first in ice. She has DP1 dynamic positioning class notation from Bureau Veritas. The high manoeuvrability conferred by two electric rudder propellers and two bow thrusters is a major asset in close-quarter berthing situations and when positioning for cargo offloading in offshore waters. While certified for unrestricted trade, the vessel’s cargo carrying scope is closely attuned to the needs of both established and emerging cargo flows in the European shortsea arena.
The voracious appetite of Asia’s expanding, ever-ambitious shipbuilding industries has created new tonnage sourcing possibilities for Europe’s shortsea interests. Cast in the Norwegian mould, but built in India, the 5,000dwt multipurpose ro-ro/lo-lo carrier Sea-Cargo Express has recently been phased into her operator’s route network linking the west coast of Norway, mainland Europe and the UK.
In keeping with the particular needs of west Norwegian trade, the vessel is equipped with a wide stern door/ramp for ro-ro cargo, a 50t knuckle crane for container stowage on the weatherdeck, and a starboard side door and associated elevator system for palletised goods. She is powered by a single Wärtsilä medium-speed engine of 4,500kW, enabling her to make 16 knots on service schedules.
As well as being the latest embodiment and refinment of a trading vessel concept well proven in the Norwegian and North Sea traffic, the particular significance of the Sea-Cargo Express is as a new international reference for Indian shipbuilding, and as the template for two further Sea-Cargo vessels which will have LNG-fuelled main machinery.
Contractor Bharati Shipyard was late with the delivery of Sea-Cargo Express by a matter of some years. Also delayed, it is understood that the follow-on, gas-engined pair of 5,900dwt newbuilds, should be in service in 2013. Each of these has been specified with a Bergen B35:40V12PG spark-ignition, lean-burn engine of 5,250kW.
The ships represent a major new milestone in the application of LNG fuel for merchant vessels, and are significant for the adoption of what is viewed as an uncomplicated single-engine, single-screw, mechanical-drive solution, emanating from Rolls-Royce. The ongoing development of the LNG bunkering infrastructure in Norway is providing further opportunities for the use of the environmentally-advantageous fuel in the coastwise and shortsea traffic, as well as in the ferry, offshore, and other sectors.
Bangladesh has raised its profile in the international market for small cargo vessels through the completion by Western Marine Shipyard of an eight-ship series of 5,200dwt newbuilds ordered in 2008 by the German company Grona Shipping. The fourth pair in the programme, EmsWater and EmsFlow, were commissioned into European shortsea trade this year under Schulte & Bruns freight management, joining the six earlier sisterships delivered between November 2010 and July 2011.
The E3 ice-class multipurpose design provides for heavy cargoes and containers in the holds and on deck, and is powered by an MaK 6M25C engine from Caterpillar Motoren, rated at 2,000kW. Western Marine’s current orderbook includes five 4,100dwt ice-class container carriers for Stella Shipping of Denmark.
In a rare example of current UK investment in coastal tonnage, Hull-based J.R. Rix & Sons recently commissioned a locally-built bunker tanker. The 1,254dwt Lerrix will be used to refuel shipping on the Humber and the UK East Coast, and has onboard blending facilities. The vessel can load up to 500t of fuel oil plus 600t of gas oil, and is powered by two 475kW Cummins engines. Lerrix was constructed on Humberside at the Rix-owned Hepworth yard at Paull, which has lately become the base of Dunstons(Ship Builders).
The European economic slowdown has hit the shortsea market, but more visionary operators with access to the requisite capital and finance provide a beacon for the industry. Intensified R&D efforts, in the Netherlands especially, hold out prospects for future small-ship competitiveness.
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