SCANDINAVIA. A Region Of Technology Drivers
Against a backcloth of contraction in European shipbuilding, the Scandinavian region is characterized by a culture of technological innovation and product quality, making for industrial resilience in pockets of excellence.
Automation has long been the watchword for Odense Staalskibsvaerft, where a new phase of robotization and introduction of leading-edge steel cutting and welding techniques bodes well for a central element of the Danish maritime infrastructure. Output at Lindo has continued to be dominated by projects for the parent A P Moller shipowning organization, widely acknowledged as one of the most professional undertakings worldwide, with extremely high expectations of its contractors. The 6,600-TEU Sovereign Maersk, commissioned into the Europe-eastern Asia mainline traffic toward the end of last year, provided a new showcase for Danish containership technology at the upper end of the post-Panamax range. The vessel was also significant from a production standpoint, in that around 14 percent of its hull was assembled using robot welding machines. Since Odense's competitiveness relative to shipbuilders in the Far East is inextricably tied to an ability to continue to raise output per worker and per unit of cost, its strategy is geared to remaining in the forefront of technology. Development planning at the yard foresees robotized systems handling some 25 percent of the welding of hull and cargo section assemblies by the year 2000, rapidly increasing to 40 percent thereafter. Sophisticated machines able to operate in an ever-greater number of axes will steadily raise the scope of application, including curved surfaces and semi-closed assembly blocks.
In the meantime, new laser cutting and welding techniques have recently been implemented at Lindovaerft, having been used for the first time in the construction of the ninth in the Maersk series of 15 boxships of 6,000/6,500-TEU. Laser technology offers higher accuracy and certain production benefits relative to conventional methods, and has been used for the cargo section and hull of the Lloyd's Register-classed newbuilding. Offshore Innovation The Scandinavian region has always proved to be a fertile testbed for all types of maritime technology, including the design and development of highly technologically driven solutions.
The Norwegian-developed Ramform hull concept (pictured to the left) will find considerable new application in the offshore industry this year, as a result of its embodiment in' two further, highly-sophisticated seismic ships and in the FPSO (floating production, storage and offloading) vessel built for the Banff oilfield in the North Sea. The remarkable delta-shaped hull has already proven to be an exceptionally stable and flexible work platform for cablelaying, underwater research and seismic survey duties. In the case of the series of seismic ships operated and ordered by Norwegian-based oilfield services specialist Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS), the design reaches its maximum beam at the stern, to the extent that the extreme width corresponds to about half the overall length.
PGS holds exclusive licenses for building seismic vessels, FPSOs and drilling/well intervention vessels incorporating the Ramform design conceived by Roar Ramde, head of the Horten-domiciled naval architecture firm Ariel. Costing approximately $80 million apiece, the recently delivered Ramform Valiant and Ramform Viking are the third and fourth vessels in PGS' series of six seismic vessels encapsulating the innovative concept, all of which have been ordered from Western Norway's Langsten Group.
Technological progression through the class is expressed in the 20-streamer capability offered by each of the latest duo, compared with the 12-streamer array in Ramform Explorer, which made its debut in 1995, followed by the 16- streamer capacity in the 1996- commissioned Ramform Challenger.
Products of the integrated shipbuilding system used by the Langsten Group, whereby the hull was constructed at the affiliated Tangen Verft's Kragero premises and transferred to the headquarters yard at Tomrefjord for outfitting and completion, Ramform Valiant and her sistership are a response to growing demand for 3- D seismic data. The vessel type constitutes an efficient tool which enables the offshore industry to identify and quantify reserves of oil and gas, and to optimize existing fields. The astonishing form is also embodied in the $200-million Ramform Banff FPSO, scheduled to provide an initial 95,000-bpd crude oil production and processing capacity on the North Sea from mid 1998. Built in South Korea by Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD),the unit is undergoing topsides installation in the U.K. at Aker McNulty's yard on Tyneside.
This year, Langsten formalized a contract with PGS for the construction of a sixth Ramform seismic ship, as further confirmation of the effectiveness of the Norwegian maritime cluster in providing high-technology, efficient solutions to the sophisticated needs of the offshore sector. By melding shipbuilding and offshore industry disciplines, Norwegian designers, yards and equipment producers have opened up new areas of opportunity, broadening their market scope in the process. An ability to respond to surging demand from a technologically demanding offshore market, coupled with heavy commitments to product development and new investments in the means of production had a signal bearing on the Ulstein Group's financial advance in 1997, featuring a fourfold increase in pre-tax profit and record turnover, order intake and work backlog.
The emergence within the integrated shipbuilding, design, equipment and engineering group of a new company known as Ulstein Ship Technology (UST) signals a further refinement of organizational structure aimed at enhancing the business of developing and supplying vessel designs and ship systems. But it also gives expression to Ulstein's perception of its future as being increasingly delineated by technology-intensive vessel types and associated systems. Larger vessels for well intervention, drilling and production cons t i t u t e a primary target area. Already this year, UST announced $49 million worth of contracts to provide designs and equipment for a total of six newbuilding anchorhandlers and platform supply vessels to be built in Denmark, France and at non-Ulstein yards in Norway. Sealed in February, the packages took the new company's workload to $159 million.
Shipbuilding Tools & Equipment Scandinavia remains a stronghold of professional know-how in regard to both ship design and shipbuilding production systems, serving the industry worldwide. Malmo-based Kockums Computer Systems ( KCS) has continually refined and embellished its Tribon design and information system tailored specifically to the needs of the shipbuilding sector. The latest Tribon 4 software has been formulated to raise productivity and efficiency by ensuring full control over all stages in a newbuilding project from tendering through design to production and delivery. The product information model database incorporated springs into the system, from a technology which allows multiuser access to the data. It supports concurrent design and production engineering in all disciplines, notably regarding the hull, machinery and outfitting. One of the latest enhancements to the system is Tribon Genauigkeit, brought to fruition in collaboration with German shipbuilder Howaldtwerke-Deutsche Werft. As its name implies, the application confers the means of improving accuracy in automated shipbuilding production, by making the alignment of parts in the assembly process easier, without adding to total design hours. The requisite precision is achieved by marking triangles and lines, which are created automatically, with the option of adding more triangles manually.
Receptivity to the Finnish-engineered Azipod propulsor design is gaining ground, as demonstrated by the selection of the innovative syst em for two newbuildings which signal Wagenborg Shipping's entry into the offshore support vessel market. Beyond the fact that each will be installed with twin azimuthing units incorporating a podded 1,620-kW electric motor, few technical details have been released as yet concerning the vessels. Booked by Kvaerner Masa-Yards (KMY) on the understanding that it will effect delivery from its Helsinki premises in the fall of 1998, the pair is believed to have been assigned duties with Shell.
Adoption of the Azipod propulsion arrangements will bear directly both on the vessels' offshore capabilities and on their ice-navigation performance. The system is well-proven in the worst ice conditions to be found in Europe's northernmost waters, having been retrofitted in 1993 and 1995, respectively, to two 16,000- dwt Arctic products tankers deployed by the Finnish-Russian joint company Nemarc.
It will have a new reference this spring in the 10-MW Botnica, the latest in a new generation of Finnish ship design combining a winter role as a Baltic icebreaker with open-season employment in offshore construction work. A key stage in the commercial introduction of Azipod beyond the realms of the ice or otherwise rigorous northern environs was reached last month with the entry of Carnival Cruise Lines' Elation into revenue-earning employ. Extrapolation of results of sea trials conducted during January indicate that the system should give fuel savings of some 40 tons per week, on the basis of an eight percent increase in propulsion efficiency relative to preceding vessels of the same Fantasy-class.
Maneuverability, turning circle and slow-speed steerability also showed significant improvement relative to the same class of ship with conventional propellers and rudders. The same system, based on two 14-MW podded Azipods, will be used in the follow-on Carnival newbuilding, Paradise.
Royal Caribbean International's recent decision to exercise an option on a third Project Eagle cruise ship of 136,000-gt from KMY holds out the prospect of an order for a further shipset of three 14-MW Azipods and associated, ABB diesel-electric powering arrangements. The first of the newbuilding trio is scheduled to be completed at Turku in 1999. The current contracts are of particular significance as an endorsement of the Azipod concept by the two global market leaders in the cruise shipping domain. Business activities relating to the Azipod electric propulsion system have been vested in a new company, in which Italian shipbuilding and engineering group Fincantieri has obtained a 22.5 percent stake, equivalent to KMYs holding, and leaving ABB Industry as the majority shareholder with a 55 percent interest.