Behemoth in the Offing?

Thursday, August 03, 2000
Attuned to the liner shipping industry's unerring drive for economies of scale, classification society Lloyd's Register (LR) has developed a conceptual design of container vessel incorporating a 12,500-TEU capacity. Although some 55-60 percent greater in slot capacity than the biggest cellular vessels ordered to date, the envisaged Ultra Large Container Ship (ULCS) would be able to transit the Suez Canal and access key ports.

LR considers that there are no insurmountable technical challenges to vessels of 12,500 TEU, and believes that it is only a matter of time before such tonnage makes its appearance in deep sea trade. The next five to 10 years could see the uptake of the envisaged new breed of behemoths by the container shipping industry.

The society has examined structural, dynamic behavior and performance aspects relating to the tentative design. Key elements of the program included the development of mid-ship scantlings, investigations into hull girder bending and torsional response, and consideration of maneuvering and propulsion aspects.

The development of the concept design followed on from a study jointly undertaken by LR and the independent U.K. firm Ocean Shipping Consultants, to identify the optimum size of post-Panamax vessel that could potentially be supported by current and forecast trade demand and the port network.

A primary objective of LR was to subsequently determine possible structural problems that might be encountered with a ship offering a cargo capacity substantially in excess of the currently attained 8,000 TEU category.

While the studies indicated limits to scale economies, it was clear that the upper point had by no means yet been reached. Taking due account of key factors determining maximum vessel size, not least questions of port access and terminal infrastructure, a vessel of approximately 12,500 TEU was identified as the optimum ULCS. The dimensions of the ensuing design drawn up by LR are compatible with maximum permissible draft restrictions through the Suez Canal, and reflect existing and planned developments at key terminals in the long-haul trades. The largest post-panamax vessels contracted so far have practical container intake capacities in the 7,000-8,000 TEU range. Hapag-Lloyd's recently-ordered quartet of 25-knot vessels from Hyundai Heavy Industries have advertised, nominal capacities of 7,200 TEU, and have been specified with the most potent propulsive power plant currently available.

The surge in the global orderbook for wider-than-panamax cellular tonnage has been one of the outstanding features of newbuilding investment in recent years. Post-panamax boxships on order, under construction and in service now account for 20 percent of total slot capacity at sea and to be delivered.

Net gains for yards In today's tightly competitive, global shipbuilding environment, every opportunity has to be taken to squeeze cost out of the system, notwithstanding the considerable advances already achieved, especially over the past five years, in efficiency and productivity. Each percentage point gain is to the good in an industry confronted with manifold, complex forces influencing reference price levels over-and-above the economics of supply and demand.

The fact that so much of the cost of a commercial vessel newbuild is represented by materials, equipment and machinery, typically accounting for around 60 percent of the total value, has hitherto been regarded as limiting the extent to which a shipyard can drive down costs through further improvements in processes and organization. But the era of e-commerce seems to hold out substantial new opportunities for increased cost efficiency in ship construction for those willing to grasp the nettle.

As a widely respected supplier of software systems tailored to the needs of shipbuilders and design engineering offices, the Swedish specialist firm Tribon Solutions believes that potential savings of up to 10 percent of total newbuild cost are attainable by using an Internet-based procurement system.

The tribon.com offering, to be launched at Hamburg's SMM Exhibition in September, will link yards, suppliers and shipowners in a global network. It will be centered around a Global Component Database, containing extensive, standardized data about the full universe of shipbuilding components, and modeling and design information facilities.

But the major value creation lies in the scope for savings offered by the companion, e-commerce functionality. This will allow buyers to search for components and suppliers, issue requests for quotations (RFQs), run auctions, and place orders direct. Tribon Solutions, previously known as Kockums Computer Systems (KCS), bases its estimation of possible, aggregate savings on reductions in process costs, lower component costs through increased transparency and wider sourcing, and reductions in lead times. Major, recent initiatives in Japan and South Korea have addressed the scope for cost reduction offered by the application of the concept of the electronic market place to shipbuilding procurement. Tribon Solutions is nonetheless strongly placed in its endeavors by virtue of the fact that its nascent product will lend itself to integration with the company's existing design and information systems, in service at nearly 300 shipyards and design bureaus around the world.

Following the public unveiling at SMM, tribon.com is due to go live at the Tribon Users' Meeting on October 2 in Sweden.

Double act for the Baltic Finnish innovation in ice-going tanker technology will have a major application in the country's own mercantile fleet, albeit with ship construction assigned to the Orient. The pair of 106,000-dwt crude oil carriers booked by Helsinki-based Fortum Shipping, part of Finnish energy group Fortum Corporation, will extend the application of the double-acting tanker (DAT) principle to the type of tonnage for which it was originally, primarily intended.

The DAT concept is the result of development work carried out by Kvaerner Masa-Yards to solve the problem of open-water performance of efficient icebreaking vessels. The ensuing type is formed and equipped to sail in an astern direction in ice-bound waters. This permits an optimized open-water bow form to be adopted, rather than an ice bow, so as to enhance efficiency sailing forward in ice-free conditions. The arrangements also promise good icebreaking capability with reduced power levels, offering fuel consumption savings relative to conventional vessels of comparable capacity.

Running astern is facilitated by the use of podded electric drives, championed by Kvaerner Masa-Yards as a co-originator of the Azipod system, and by the special design of the aftbody. Two 16,400-dwt Arctic tankers, Uikku and Lunni, retrofitted with Azipods in 1993 and 1995, provided early platforms both for podded propulsion and for the DAT principle in rigorous operating conditions. The robust pair is deployed by Nemarc Shipping, a joint venture of KMY and Fortum Shipping, previously known as Neste Shipping. The first DAT newbuilds were two icebreaking supply ships delivered by the Finnish shipbuilder to Wagenborg for Caspian Sea service in 1998. Fortum's newly ordered 106,000-dwt crude oil tankers, to be constructed in Japan by Sumitomo Heavy Industries, give a huge fillip to a design concept, which offers long-term opportunities for opening up the Russian Arctic trade. In the meantime, the Fortum sisters are destined to ensure dependable, year-round supplies of North Sea crude to the group's Finnish refineries at Porvoo and Naantali.

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