At the end of 2012, Rickmers Group announced that it would take over a contract for the construction of two 20,000 dwt multipurpose vessels to a design that would reflect market demands for efficient, flexible and reliable vessels.
Construction of the newbuildings is well underway at Hudong Zhonghua Shipbuilding, in China, with delivery planned for early 2015.
“Vessels of this type have traditionally had very standard designs,” says Dr Georg Eljardt, Director of Maritime Technology, Rickmers Group. “We took over the newbuilding project under the condition that we could change many elements of the design to ensure the highest degrees of efficiency on board.” The significantly improved technical specifications will lead to a substantial reduction in fuel consumption.
An optimised hull form together with a high efficiency propeller and rudder will enable the new ships to achieve an operating speed of 16.5 knots while using considerably less power than comparable vessels and being optimised for slower speeds operating down to 10 percent MCR.
The new vessels reflect Rickmers’ commitment to efficiency and safety. “For multipurpose vessels the market is tough, with a lot of competition,” says Dr Eljardt, “so it is crucial that the vessel is able to take just about any type of cargo and handle it very time and fuel efficiently.
"Cargo profile was a key consideration when designing the vessels. “We investigated different cargo profiles, drafts and hull forms; all with a view to delivering maximum market access. The vessels now have one large, long cargo hold, which can be subdivided to accommodate a wide range and combination of bulk, break bulk, heavy lift and project cargo. The MacGregor system we have chosen offers a great deal of flexibility in comparison to the previous traditional design,” he notes.
In addition to an optimised hull form, the vessels feature further improvements with regard to the propulsion train. The whole engine room has been redesigned to accommodate a slow speed two-stroke diesel main engine. “In addition they also are the first vessels to feature an ESPAC (Energy Saving Package) propulsion system which, through a combined design process of the propeller and rudder, unlocks otherwise lost energy-saving potential. This innovative arrangement will allow the vessels to operate very efficiently throughout the whole operating range from slow steaming to service speed. Together with the ability to take as much cargo of as many types as possible, this offers the operator much more time to react in this volatile market.
“This type of ship spends proportionally more time in port than other types of trading vessel,” explains Dr Eljardt. “If the vessel is in demand, anything that can be done to speed up operations in port is beneficial. On the other hand, if there is less work, these vessels can run at slower speeds, but very efficiently. They really are forerunners in the market.”
New and proven technologies
The vessels feature new and service-proven MacGregor technologies. “We wanted a supplier that offered the best quality engineering solution, with the highest quality fabrication processes,” says Dr Eljardt. “The reliability of the cargo handling system, its function and efficiency are essential elements of these vessels.
“We wanted tailor-made solutions to ensure a good quality package of equipment that will deliver the most efficient vessels possible. To achieve this we needed to plan at the earliest possible stage. “Early involvement of cargo handling specialists is crucial for the successful end result of any project. This will define the final ship. This early involvement also reduces changes later in the build processes. The clearer the design, and the fewer the changes during the build process, the more cost-efficient the build will be.”
The Rickmers Group has the highest expectations of MacGregor’s equipment, based on a long history of successful deliveries. “We know pretty well what we can expect. Our previous experience with MacGregor equipment was definitely a deciding factor when choosing the equipment for these vessels. When considering future vessels, MacGregor would definitely be a supplier that we would look at, and we would also consider MacGregor’s electric cranes.”
“Besides energy efficiency, good service and the availability of parts are also crucial factors,” he notes. “For this vital equipment we need a strong partner. We aim to offer our charter clients reliable vessels and the best service possible; we cannot jeopardise this. Therefore choosing a partner with a strong service capability, who helps us achieve this reliability, is extremely important to us.”
Success in volatile markets
In terms of significant developments in general cargo shipping trade over the next few years, Dr Eljardt believes that it will continue to be tough. “The particular markets for multipurpose vessels are volatile and volumes are reduced.
"This volatility, coupled with significant overcapacity, means that it is crucial to have a ship that best suits the market and maximises every aspect of operational efficiency. Innovation, reliability and cost-efficiency are keys to this success and cargo handling systems play an essential role in this equation.”
This article originally appeared in MacGregor News, Autumn 2014.