The Forum looked at a broad spectrum of topics concerning container shipping including: stowage and lashing, the potential for LNG vessels and bunkering, trends in the liner markets, high tensile steel and thick materials for ship building, pilotage and maneuvering XXL container ships in the Hamburg harbor and the advantages of having an Emergency Response Service.
Some 50 representatives from the container industry met with GL experts at the Container Ship Forum, to hear the presentations and participate in informal discussions. The speakers were introduced by GL's Hans-Günther Albers, who also moderated the Forum and the discussion.
Leading off, Marcus Ihms, GL's Ship Type Expert for Container Vessels, examined some of the new and incoming regulations impacting container shipping. The new Annex 14 to the IMO Code of Safe Practice for Cargo Stowage and Securing (CSS Code) will be important for newbuildings and existing vessels, he said, and applies to ships specifically designed and fitted for the purpose of carrying containers on deck, both containerships and vessels with the GL class notation "equipped for carriage of containers." The space requirements in the Annex 14 regulations for the Design of Lashing Positions could have an impact on the length of new container vessels, adding up to two meters to a typical 14,000 TEU container vessel. GL has developed interpretations of the rules to provide clear guidance to owners, yards and suppliers.
The Ballast Water Convention, adopted by the IMO in 2004, only requires the ratification of countries representing 4% of global gross tonnage to enter into force, said Mr. Ihms. When that occurs, all trading vessels over 400GT will need to comply with the regulations. This would require intensive and detailed preparation for measures to meet the required Ballast Water Management (BWM) performance standard (D2), he noted. GL's latest tool to help prepare owners for the changes is the BWM D2 Due Date Calculator, which enables owners to easily calculate the due date of compliance with the D2 treatment standard for any vessel. This is based on the construction date and the size of vessel (measured by ballast water capacity) and covers both vessels in service and newbuildings. The calculation requires only a minimal amount of input and produces a clear illustration of a vessel's individual timeline for compliance, suitable for fleet records.
Mathias Galle, GL's Deputy Chief Surveyor, looked at the experience gained from the extended dry docking (EDD) program, which has been running since 2010. GL was the first class society to implement EDD in their rules and some 140 vessels were currently using the service, he said. During the EED period class renewal could be conducted by in water survey, with dry docking shifted to every seven and a half years over the first 15 years of a vessel's lifecycle.
The shipping industry has faced tough economic times over the last several years, but Jeffrey van der Gugten, from GL's Global Sales and Business Development team, set out some grounds for guarded optimism in the container sector. Agencies were predicting overall growth of 4-6% he said, but as in the past this would most likely be unevenly distributed. With intra Asian routes looking at stronger growth, while others lagged behind. Ever larger boxships were entering the market, with new tonnage concentrated in the 12000 TEU sector. This was pushing smaller vessels out of the main Europe to Asia trade route, he noted, which led to a "cascade" effect whereby displaced larger tonnage moved into smaller markets and so on down the line. GL prepares a quarterly trend report which provides a compact overview regarding demand and supply as well as prices and charter rates and can be obtained by contacting GL directly.
Jan-Olaf Probst, GL's Global Ship Type Director, showed how GL would soon be able to offer containership operators more flexibility in on-deck container stowage – without compromising safety. Based on long-term statistical data on wave conditions, GL has developed a new class notation for Route Specific Container Stowage (RSCS), he said, which is due for release in May. The new scheme accounts for the fact that sea conditions vary from sea region to sea region. The RSCS notation will take this into account. On suitable routes, ship operators will be able to place heavier boxes on the upper tiers of deck stacks, more units on outside stacks and even an additional tier of empty containers where the line of sight is not affected. This could result in as much as 10% more cargo carried on deck, depending on vessel size and route. As part of the route specific container stowage scheme GL offers container lines a tailor-made stowage and loading plan for individual vessels and routes. The new notation requires the use of lashing software.
As container vessels have steadily grown in size, so too has the use of high tensile steel and thick materials. In his presentation, Dr. Olaf Doerk, from GL's consulting subsidiary FutureShip, assessed the effect of the upcoming IACS unified requirements (UR) on GL's rules in this area. New URs for the application of HT47 steel and the use of extreme thick steel plates will come into force in January 2014. So GL, in cooperation with a steel mill and ship yards, decided to undertake two joint development projects (JDPs), to investigate both the fatigue strength and fracture mechanic properties of HT47 welded joints. The JDPs examined butt welds as well as longitudinal stiffener attachments and block joints. The extensive testing generally confirmed GL's procedures and rules, but also gave some indications for areas of adjustment.
Donatus Kulisch, from the Hamburg Harbor Pilots' Association (Hafenlotsenbrüderschaft Hamburg), talked about the pilotage and maneuvering of container ships over 330m in Hamburg harbor. Dealing with these so called XXL ships has required a great deal of creativity from the Hamburg pilots, he said. Using radar images and time-lapse films, he illustrated the innovative ways used by the pilots to bring these vessels into the terminal. To assist the vessels and pilots, portable pilot information units have been deployed on the vessels which aid moving these massive vessels.
Benjamin Scholz, GL's Ship Type Expert for Gas Carriers, discussed the latest developments in LNG as ship fuel. He looked at the many LNG projects ongoing at GL, which examine the technology's use in vessels, the regulatory and technical requirements for safe bunkering, supply and port operations, and the potential economic and ecological benefits of LNG as ship fuel.
Finally, Kai Ahlens Head of GL's Emergency Response Service (ERS) team gave an overview of the work of his department. 1275 vessels are currently in the service, 95% of which are GL classed. The 11 strong team was involved in 11 incidents over 2012, he said, and had conducted some 32 exercises. Three experts are on shift around the clock and have access to a pre-defined calculation model of any vessel in the service. This enables the team to give extremely reliable technical advice, as quickly as possible. Mr. Ahlers examined some of the ERS service's emergency cases of 2012 in detail, such as the fire on the MSC Flaminia, along with several other emergency situations the ERS team has previously handled. The ERS team has access to all the GL class files, he said, and had a computer based contingency planning system for discharge, on-board transfer of cargo and/or ballast.