Jotun: Greening the trade in crude

Monday, April 17, 2000
Bringing her first cargo to Europe following completion by Samsung Heavy Industries, the 306,000-dwt British Pioneer has given new expression to environmental-consciousness in the crude oil transportation sector. While the security of her 2.1-million barrel cargo containment has been enhanced by the compulsory double hulling, the non-mandatory continuation of the double shell aft better safeguards the bunker spaces, reducing the risk of fuel oil spillage in the event of the aftship being breached. In addition, her potential impact on marine life has been lessened through the adoption of a newly unveiled, tin-free antifouling.

Although it currently comes at a very substantial price-per-liter premium, Jotun's SeaQuantum product is claimed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder performance-wise with the tin-bearing self-polishing paints, which have enabled shipowners to operate at drydocking intervals of up to 60 months. While Jotun developed the formulation for the coating, Japanese chemicals group Nippon Oil and Fats (NOF) came up with a silyl polymer to replace the environmentally hazardous tin compounds used in the ubiquitous self-polishing antifouling coatings. Multiple full-ship pilot applications over the past seven years provide Jotun with the basis for its claims for the long-run potency and also enhanced fuel-saving effect of the system.

British Pioneer, first of a quartet for BP Amoco Shipping, is one of a host of newbuilds to be treated with the copper-based underwater coating. The anticipated ban on the application of all antifoulings containing TBT (Tributyltin) by January 1, 2003 will focus more minds on the 'greener' alternatives.

Teaming-up for the long term Prime contractorship, or single sourcing, demonstrated to advantage over the years in the defense and offshore sectors, is regarded in many circles as expedient to the needs of increasingly complex, time-pressured commercial shipbuilding projects. It also allies with the trend among shipyards towards greater reliance on outsourcing.

But aside from the practical advantages of a turnkey approach in fulfilling a newbuild program within the requisite time, budgetary and quality constraints, 'one-stop shopping' can also mean less long-term risk for the shipowner.

Engine supplier Wärtsilä NSD and propulsor specialist John Crane-Lips are about to formalize a new pact for the delivery of complete marine power and propulsion packages. At the signing of the letter of intent in February, the Finnish group's president, Ole Johansson, underlined the fact that this would mean "no accountability gaps" from the customer's perspective.

With any erring in schedule-keeping and unplanned downtime being anathema to operators today, having recourse to a single point of contact regarding warranty and back-up for entire power train and propulsion equipment systems will no doubt be welcomed.

Alliances of such a nature accordingly promise long-run benefits in addition to conferring efficiencies in the design and execution of a project, through the delivery of functionally integrated, complete systems. Indeed, Wärtsilä NSD and John Crane-Lips are looking beyond the generative effect of the agreement on product sales to the extra opportunities that it offers in tendering long-term or life-cycle support. Significantly, service has come to account for 31 percent of the Finnish engine group's turnover, and its U.K.-owned collaboration partner attributes similar importance to its after-sales activities.

The link-up brings a complete array of two-stroke and four-stroke diesel machinery, transmissions, shaftlines, propellers, seals and bearings, thrusters, waterjets, pods and controls under the aegis of the Wärtsilä-Lips banner, albeit with Wärtsilä NSD acting as integrator and main contractor.

The move is all the more notable for the single-minded, self-reliant attributes long displayed by Wärtsilä NSD and its Finnish antecedents. However, if it seems to go against the grain in that respect, the collaboration is distinguished by the remarkable degree of product complementarity, which it confers. It is equally significant in denoting a meeting of minds in two European advocates of vigorous investment in technology and champions of in-house manufacturing control. The Finnish group recently gave further expression to its belief in the partnership-type approach by entering into a working agreement with Carnival Corporation for the development of a 'smokeless' diesel engine. Using potent medium-speed machinery from the existing range as the design basis, Wärtsilä NSD will apply common rail fuel injection technology and its direct water injection method to a project for a diesel-electric propulsion plant with exceptional environmental credentials and an increased level of efficiency.

Careful packaging and delivery Although it is now looking to a period of consolidation, the robust acquisitive policy pursued over the past few years by the independent research organization British Maritime Technology (BMT) has widened its market reach and strengthened its hand in providing 'packages' of services. Chairman David Goodrich confirmed that "BMT's continued long-term strategy is to become a 'one-stop' consultancy, differentiated by the outstanding quality of its products and services and integrity of its advice." The restructuring of the group last fall, putting all subsidiaries and joint ventures under the supervision of two management companies in Greater London and Virginia showed understanding of the importance of being able to efficiently and quickly deliver and respond to customers.

Assembling the components of a comprehensive service capability is not in itself a guarantee of turnkey business, as BMT clearly recognizes. As in all such situations, the various companies and personnel need to be able to interact freely, in identifying and pursuing business opportunities, looking to the common good of the organization.

The institution of the Employee Benefit Trust system in 1998 was a prudent, motivating measure. Nonetheless, pragmatic management has laid down building blocks on which to create a single-sourcing platform. One example of this is a secure system of internal communication, using the electronic medium, through which market intelligence can be shared and personnel strengths and resources can be rapidly identified for matching to project enquiries and upcoming needs.

John Gallagher, who has resumed his previous position as president of the Arlington-based BMT subsidiary Designers & Planners after three years as BMT Group chief executive in the U.K., is long experienced in collaborative methods of working and is a leading advocate of using combined capabilities to optimum effect. In an overview of group activities, Gallagher said "a particularly encouraging trend is the pooling of resources by our companies to provide a tailored response to given business opportunities."

For instance, the specialist skills of five group firms have been drawn together in assisting the U.K.' s Maritime & Coastguard Agency determine a long-term management strategy for the 1944 wreck of the munitions ship Richard Montgomery in the Thames Estuary. As a further demonstration of joint endeavors, several BMT companies in the U.K., U.S. and Sweden are involved in a multiple cableship design project, pooling areas of specialist knowledge, and providing the customer with a single point of contact by way of a lead company.

Know-how manifested in products and services is the result of experience and a considerable plough-back of earnings into research and development (R&D). Last year, it invested the equivalent of more than 10 percent of U.K. turnover in R&D, compared with an average figure of less than three percent for British companies.

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