Through a longstanding blend of organizational discipline and an unerring drive for the highest levels of automation attainable in shipbuilding processes, the industry in Japan demonstrates resilience founded on continuing productivity advances.
Untiring efforts to seek new ways of reducing man-hours and lead times is wholly characteristic of Japanese companies, as they rise to the intensified challenge posed by equally resolute South Korean yards
Although designs from Japanese builders are necessarily production-oriented, shaping perceptions in the international shipowning market that tailoring can only be had at a substantial premium, there is no question about the quality obtainable at a competitive price.
Design-led endeavors directed at keeping an edge in man-output and raising manufacturing efficacy are especially pertinent to the complex tanker structures spawned by landmark legislation of the 1990s. Design optimization had different ramifications in earlier years. But new initiatives to promote build precision now hold out the prospect not only of production gains but also long-term benefits in structural reliability. As the latest expression of Japanese innovation, the first of a new breed of VLCCs embodying Kawasaki Heavy Industries' Apple Slot structural concept has been completed for the Golden Ocean Group
. Fronting up a six-ship series from the Sakaide yard for the expansion-minded operator, the 300,000-dwt crude carrier embodies a patented concept aimed at reducing the multitude of conventional stiffeners on the webs. With the mandatory requirement for double-hulling making for complex structures, Kawasaki's initiative actually simplifies and reduces the lightweight of the whole structure.
The term Apple Slot describes a specially-devised weight-saving and work-saving connection between the longitudinals and transverse web plates, whereby the number of structural members is about 25 percent less than would normally be required in a conventional approach to double-hull construction. In addition to its impact on build economics, the system is claimed to markedly improve overall fatigue strength and long-term design integrity, given that the connection points for the stiffeners can be especially prone to stress concentration in double-hulled tanker structures. In essence, the conventionally fitted stiffeners on the transverse webs have been replaced by apple-shaped slots. Weld quality also benefits from the arrangements, observes Kawasaki, since automated welding can be more widely applied to the simplified hull structure.
Although originally developed for double-hulled VLCCs, the Apple Slot technique had its first application in the bottom section of a Sakaide-built Capesize bulker, and is seen as suited for the gamut of large bulkers as well as Aframax, Suezmax and larger crude carriers. Scale is a necessary prerequisite for the efficient utilization of the idea.
The Golden Ocean tanker, which is understood to have attracted an initial two-year charter, has been dimensioned for a 2-million barrel-capacity, with the added advantage of a shallower-than-usual draft for a ship of her deadweight. Nonetheless, high propulsion efficiency has been obtained by optimizing the vessel's lines and fitting a rudder bulb with fins. Powering by a Kawasaki-manufactured MAN B&W 7S80MC two-stroke diesel should ensure a competitive laden speed of 15.6-knots at the design draft.
Poles break new ground
Time was when the Norwegians automatically looked to the Orient when planning new investment in bulkers of the open-hatch type, a well-proven, Norwegian-developed concept of lumber, pulp and container carrier distinguished by its stow optimization and cargo handling efficiency.
Poland's resourceful shipbuilding industry, however, has provided a viable European option for the construction of such tonnage, as soon to be demonstrated by the delivery of the first of a capacious new breed from Stocznia Szczecinska.
The fact that some of the leading lights in this specialized theater of operations have put their names to the project is solid testament to the Szczecin yard's international competitiveness in a field which has been dominated by Far Eastern yards for the past quarter-century.
The quartet of 39,780-dwt newbuilds ordered to the account of Singapore-based Masterbulk will be managed by Westfal-Larsen of Bergen and operated under charter to Star Shipping, one of the most skilled practitioners in the open-hatch mode. Szczecinska had initially reasserted itself on the international market through its prowess in container ship construction, and has since carved a niche in the conbulker domain, while also taking on specialized tanker and multi-purpose vessel business. Adding an extra dimension to the increasingly diversified production mix at Szczecin, the open-hatch bulkers are each equipped with two 40-ton deck gantries and suited for bulk commodities as well as lumber, other forestry goods and boxes.
Strengthening Turkish ties
The strong links forged between Denmark's marine engineering sector and the Turkish market have been reinforced by an early commitment to the propulsion version of MAN B&W's newly-developed L27/38 engine.
Contractual owner Turcas has selected an eight-cylinder version of the 270-mm bore design for each of two 4,500-dwt products carriers entrusted to Celik Tekne Shipyard, as part of a comprehensive propulsion package from MAN B&W's Alpha Diesel division.
The deal not only demonstrates confidence in the latest product addition to the portfolio at the accomplished Alpha works in Frederikshavn, northern Jutland, but also signifies a new chapter in the business relationship fostered with Turkey's private shipowning community. The Danish manufacturer is already the leading supplier of two-stroke propulsion plant to the yards in Turkey, most of which are clustered around Tuzla Bay, and mercifully unscathed by the horrendous, recent earthquake.
The new L27/38 four-stroke type, spanning the 2,775-4,160 bhp power band, augments and complements the range of machinery and comprehensive propulsion systems produced
by the northern Danish bastion of marine engineering. The first seagoing reference in a propulsion application will be a six-cylinder model for an Icelandic deepwater fishing vessel ordere
d from a Chinese yard.
Besides the latest four-stroke project, Alpha's Turkish ties are also currently manifested in L35MC and S35MC two-stroke engines for chemtanker newbuildings. As a fresh endorsement of recent years' investments in new assembly and test facilities at the Frederikshavn factory, it has lately won an order for two further engines of the 7S50MC-C type, almost the largest that can be built in Denmark today, for fitting in 37,500 dwt chemtankers under construction at a Norwegian yard.
Since 1989, when it rolled-out its first small-bore MC-series engine, the Alpha works has delivered and contracted a total of 120 two-stroke engines. As the result of the bolstering of capacity, it can now supply single units of up to 17,160-bhp. Alpha thereby provides MAN B&W's two-stroke design fountainhead in Copenhagen with direct recourse to current production know-how in house, rather than being wholly reliant on licensees' manufacturing expertise.