The next workhorse - MPV of the future
Being able to rely on in-house operating expertise when designing a new ship is definitely an advantage. The German MPV owner Briese and its partners have developed a next-generation vessel for their fleet that combines all the features tomorrow’s ships will need to prevail in the market.
It is all about fleet performance, and at Briese Schiffahrt, nothing is left to chance. Based in Leer, Germany’s second largest shipowning centre after Hamburg, the company is a leading global owner of heavy-lift and multi-purpose cargo vessels. In a highly competitive market environment plagued by overcapacities, Briese manages a fleet of roughly 150 ships. Most of them are operated by Briese’s subsidiary, BBC Chartering.
Any port, any cargo – wherever something big and heavy needs to be transported, BBC is never far. “Our ships are designed for flexible deployments and reliable carriage of practically any conceivable cargo,” says Raymond E. Fisch, Senior Vice President Strategic Projects at BBC Chartering.
But the demands are getting tougher. “There is a clear trend towards bigger and more expensive cargo, especially in the project business, and it forces us to be even more flexible,” says Fisch. To cope with stricter environmental regulations, the growing importance of the “environmental footprint”, and enormous cost pressures, and to prevail in the market, shipowners must invest in innovative technology. In Leer, the future is now: together with its partner shipowners Krey Shipping and Auerbach, Briese has launched the next MPV/HL generation, the 12,500 dwt Eco Trader MPV 500. Six ships, built at the Chinese shipyards Jiangsu Hongqiang Marine Heavy Industry and Jiangxi Jiangzhou Union Shipbuilding, will be commissioned, with unique characteristics designed to meet future market requirements.
This is the second time Briese and Krey have jointly developed a multi-purpose vessel with heavy-lift capability in the 12,000 dwt category. The last one, first built around the turn of the millennium, became the workhorse of the business segment. Its innovative successor promises to follow in its footsteps as the next workhorse of the industry – and an icon of eco-friendly trading. Based on market observations, new technologies, and statistical evaluations of the company’s fleet and its operating profiles, the Briese newbuilding team identified seven areas on the legacy vessel with wide-ranging improvement potential (see info box at the end of the article).
Flexible and economically feasible
“We call it the Magic Seven of optimization,” says Bernd Boening, Newbuilding Manager at Briese Schiffahrt. The first Eco Trader, the BBC Birte H. owned by Krey Shipping, is in service already. “The data from her virgin voyage have exceeded our expectations. We hope that our long-term findings will confirm this first impression,” says BBC Senior Vice President Fisch. Drawing the right conclusions from practical experiences is standard procedure at Briese Schiffahrt, and a key success factor for the current newbuilding project. “You have to be intimately familiar with the interrelated requirements of the shipowning and affreightment businesses that the new vessels will have to live up to,” says project head Boening. It is extremely helpful to work closely with the charterer, who can provide all the relevant information regarding long-term market trends as well as cargo types and their handling requirements, he adds.
“The most important criteria for the design concept are economic feasibility and flexibility,” says Boening. It begins with determining the size of the ship, followed by the optimization of the hull for the intended cargoes and operating modes, and the performance requirements for the cranes and their interaction with the hatch cover system, through to the selection of the best propulsion system. “A good hull shape is always the fundament for fuel efficiency,” says Boening. A statistical analysis of the speed, draught, and trimming records from roughly two dozen ships in the Briese fleet was the starting point for developing the future operating profile and defining the optimization targets for the Eco Trader’s lines plan.
Team spirit and top technology
A single-point optimising of an MPV hull only for full draught would be a grave mistake. Plenty of volume but often little weight: in the project business, where an MPV may haul rotor blades for wind turbines or FPSO accommodation topsides, the ship’s payload is rarely fully utilized. What is more, the load is often not evenly distributed, says Boening. “Our ships sail at reduced draught most of the time.” For best results, Boening’s newbuilding team worked very closely with the Shanghai-based design team, overseeing and directing its activities. After all, the quality and sustainability of the vessel will influence its value on the used ship market later on. “We reviewed a total of more than 300 design drawings,” the project manager points out.
The classification society plays a key role in such a scenario. A host of topics needed to be discussed with the DNV GL ship type expert, says Boening. “Cooperation with DNV GL was excellent, we were supported by expertise and advice throughout the entire project.” The result proves the Leer engineers right. The Eco Trader 12,500 has an outstanding energy efficiency design index (EEDI) and far exceeds the requirements newbuilds must meet as of 2025. Underscoring their environmental compatibility and sustainability, the DNV GL-classed vessels bear the additional EP-D class notation. ”We are delighted to have contributed to this next-generation heavy-lift multi-purpose vessel,“ says Jan Rüde, Ship Type Expert MPV at DNV GL. “Market-leading DNV GL know-how in this segment has helped maximize cargo flexibility and minimize operating costs and risks so the vessel can meet future market demands.“
All in all, the Magic Seven improvements have cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by roughly 30 per cent compared with existing tonnage. Apart from the hull design and the application of a low-resistance, anti-fouling paint system which performs exceptionally well over the wide range of operating conditions the new MPVs will be exposed to in their deployment regions, the propulsion system is also of extraordinary importance.
A milestone for the segment
The MAN B&W 5G45ME-C9.5 engine is the vessel’s new heart. The concept combines a low-speed, ultra-long-stroke design with full electronic control. The new G45 series, built by STX in South Korea under licence by MAN Diesel & Turbo and certified by DNV GL, is considerably more fuel-efficient than comparable engines. Taking advantage of this advanced engine technology is a milestone achievement for the MPV/HL segment.
The most important opportunity to reduce the required propulsion energy however is the use of a larger propeller. ”The new G-type engine with its lower rpm range enables us to enlarge the propeller diameter from the legacy vessels’ 4.9 metres to 5.7 metres, which gives the efficiency a real boost,“ explains Boening. Apart from the measures taken concerning propulsion power, speed-controlled cooling water pumps and engine room fans as well as an intelligent power management system for heat consumers will limit the demand for auxiliary power.
Fuel consumption and the propeller shaft power output are continuously measured and evaluated by an intelligent Performance Monitoring System. The data is available quickly and transmitted to the inland office as well. If the vessel is found to be operating outside its most efficient range, action can be taken immediately. “But the most important benefit is that the system raises the crew’s awareness of efficient operating practices. That alone will make a big difference,” says project head Boening.
Improved fuel efficiency is one major benefit of the new Eco Traders; increased flexibility and cargo handling performance is another. The cranes are the most important equipment on board a heavy lifter. “Customizing a standard product to make it an optimal fit for the ship and its cargo requirements is an art,” says Boening. But capacity is not everything. Crane outreach, lifting heights, and the fine-tuning between the crane and the hatch cover system are major performance-enhancing features.
Each Eco Trader has two 250-ton Liebherr cranes capable of delivering their full 500-ton capacity in tandem operation with an outreach of 11 m from the ship’s side over the pier when using a lifting beam. The cranes can utilize a major portion of their lifting capacity across the entire deck area, which makes it easier to load and transport extremely bulky cargo items. The cranes are also approved for continuous bulk operation. The developers at the Rostock-based crane manufacturer Liebherr MCCtec worked closely with the Briese newbuilding team. The list of requirements they received from Leer was long, but the result was well worth the effort: “No other ship in our fleet offers better crane reach and lifting heights,” says Boening. Because of the ship’s dimensions, there is no need for stabilization pontoons. “This allows us to utilize all of the available space for payload.”
A combined hatch cover system consisting of mainly folding covers and only two pontoon covers in the midship area between the cranes will avoid time-consuming cargo turnover. The main cargo hold is 76.5 metres long and 17.6 metres wide, and the tank top can bear deck loads of up to 25 tons per square metre. “The two-hatch system has increased loading flexibility significantly,” says Boening. “The new ships can carry large, bulky cargo such as wind turbine rotor blades below deck.”
Amidships, the two pontoon covers which close the gap between the folding covers can carry 8 tons per square metre. “Using both hatch covers together we can transport very heavy single cargo such as cable reels with a gross weight of up to 3,750 tons not only below deck but also on deck,” says Boening. The movable tween decks, which can be lifted using auxiliary hoists, support up to 4 tons per square metre, further increasing cargo loading flexibility. Special attention was given to the vessel’s stability and strength limits for safe operation.
Any port, any cargo – the fact that each Eco Trader is interchangeable with her sister vessels and, with some limitations, with her predecessor series as well, gives BBC Chartering even greater flexibility in the market. This is especially helpful for fleet performance management, which is much more complex in tramping than in liner or cargo type-specific shipping. “Making the best possible use of a ship’s capacity is the high art of affreightment,” says Fisch. But competition is tough in tramping, and follow-on jobs are difficult to plan. Innovative, highly cost-efficient and flexible ships make business a lot easier. After all, fleet performance makes the difference.