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Vision And Flexibility — Marks Of A Leader

RoRo innovator Stena Line has a track record of striking multipleship newbuilding deals for carefully crafted designs that readily find a place in the market. Its 11-unit Searunner series built 20 years ago by Hyundai Heavy Industries has proved one of the industry's most successful and versatile classes of RoRo, which has readily lent itself to jumboization and adaptation.

Stena's ability to anticipate the needs of operators and trade in its investment programs was recently demonstrated by its sale to Finnlines of two RoRo passenger ships ordered from Astilleros Espanoles (AESA), and under construction at the Puerto Real yard in Cadiz.

Homeported in Helsinki, the newbuildings will be strengthened to Ice Class 1A standard, and will emerge with higher capacities than the 2,500 lane meters and 380 passenger berths written into the original Stena specification.

Gothenburg-headquartered Stena immediately went on to reinstate its own tonnage commitments in Spain by contracting two further RoPax newbuildings from AESA based on the same concept. In an almost parallel development, the Swedish group finalized an agreement for the transfer to Turkish account of two of its series of Stena 4-Runner RoRo freight vessels booked with Italian shipbuilder Societa Esercizio Cantieri (SEC). The sale similarly resulted in the program being extended through Stena exercising options on a fourth and fifth ship in the same class.

A total of seven 4-Runner trailer/ freight carriers had been envisaged from the start, offering the prospect of one of the largest-ever export programs for Italy's independent shipbuilding sector.

. Since Stena is understood to have now concluded charters for two of its newbuildings occupying 1998 delivery slots, there is every likelihood of orders for a sixth and seventh RoRo being placed with SEC.

A distributed system of production, entailing construction of different parts of each vessel at three sites on the Ligurian coast, has been implemented by SEC to enable it to cover the delivery requirements. Handover of the first of the 12,350-dwt newbuildings is now set for next month.

The vessel will be phased into service between Istanbul and the northernmost Adriatic port of Trieste by purchaser UND RoRo Isletmereli, which is also due to place the fourth of the 4-Runner class into the Turkey/Italy trade in April 1999. Turkish road hauliers are the main controling interests in UND.

This leaves Stena with three newbuildings due to be delivered by SEC in June and October 1998, and October 1999, and with the possibility of an additional two 4- Runners being awarded to the entrepreneurial Italian shipbuilding concern.

The 4-Runner type, in which the scantlings, layout, hydrodynamic design and powering arrangements facilitate future jumboization or conversion, offers a trailer laneage of 2,715-lane meters. It is equally suited to containers on chassis and mafi-type units as well as to road trailers, and has a primary plant based on four Sulzer 8ZA40S engines delivering a total 23,040-kW for a competitive service speed of 22-knots.

It can be expected to carve a market niche in the way the remarkable, South Korean-built Searunners have done. The fact that those vessels are now reaching an age when replacement will have to be contemplated gives added significance to Stena's latest newbuild initiatives.

Reliability Tantamount To Liner Trade Survival With ongoing rationalization in the liner sector, and the growing influence of powerful groupings and operating alliances, the pressure to realize ever-greater economies of scale by reducing unit costs per shipped container is unceasing.

The creation of efficient hull designs and development of power plant technology are understated elements in the rapid evolution of the means of container freight exchange witnessed in recent years. This is expressed in the trend to a new generation of linehaul ships combining box intakes of unprecedented scale with speeds of 24 to 25 knots.

The DU-Sulzer 12RTA96C two stroke engine in Aioi, Japan.

But the enormous propulsive energy demands imposed by the post-Panamax breed, already approaching the 7,000-TEU mark, is not purely a function of ship size, dimensions and speed requirement.

It is also a factor of service dependability, since schedules are sacrosanct in the liner trades, in which the stakes are getting higher all the time through the intensification of the competitive environment.

Driven by the ship operators' needs, reliability is the number one priority in designing a new large-bore containership engine, confirmed Rudolf Demmerle, product manager for the RTA-C range at Wartsila NSD Switzerland. The Sulzer marque has recently broken new bounds with the 11RTA96C installation of 82,170 bhp in the 5,750-TEU NYK Antares, and the 12-cylinder versions of 89,640 bhp supplied to P&O Nedlloyd's 6,674-TEU newbuilds at Kure.

"The risk of missing the schedule with a ship carrying a huge quantity of high-value cargo is an economic threat of the first order," commented Mr. Demmerle. Power availability and margin has to be calculated to ensure that time lost through weather or delays in port can be rapidly made up in tightlytimetabled, high-frequency sailing rotations.

Of course, ensuring a reserve of power also has asset protection and safety implications given the exceptionally high value concentrations represented in such a vessel and its containerized payload. Mechanical reliability bears upon the whole, and upon the operational emphasis on minimum scheduled downtime as well as unscheduled time off-hire, with all which that implies for the design efforts directed toward extended times between overhaul (TBO), corresponding to the periods between ship overhauls. Italian Technology ... With Style Little more than 10 years after its re-entry to luxury passengership construction, determined Fincantieri has attained a highpoint in the niche business of designing and building highcapacity cruise vessels.

Holland America Line's newly-commissioned, evolutionary Rotterdam, claimed to be the fastest ship of its type at 25 knots, has been a particular test of the shipbuilder's project management skills and resources, necessitating greater than usual recourse to outside subcontractors for the outfitting stages.

Indeed, there has been unremitting pressure on the system and organization over the last decade to develop what has proven to be a commanding position in the cruise ship market while, at the same time, effecting a major group restructure and turning it from a consistent loss-maker into a profitable undertaking. The current period of activity in the passenger ship field has been without parallel in a modern-day context, utilizing all efforts at Monfalcone and Venice-Marghera.

The forthcoming completion at Marghera of the 85,000-gt Disney Magic, promised for the end of February, will be considered an epochal stage in the industry's development.

In addition, in April, Monfalcone will set a new record with the scheduled delivery to P&O Princess Cruises of Grand Princess, which will rank as the world's largest cruise ship in commission at 109,000-gt. How many builders today could deliver three outfitting-intensive, seminal ships, in the shape of the Rotterdam, Disney Magic and Grand Princess, within a space of just six months? Fincantieri chairman Corrado Antonini regards work value and project sophistication as more pertinent measures of business standing than market share alone, although the Italian group clearly retains the top slot worldwide. Mr. Antonini is confident that with the largest technical organization of any European builder, plus two yards orientated to continuous cruise ship construction, it can maintain or even build on its market position

 
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