Entering a new era for the heavy-lift business
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Entering a new era for the heavy-lift business

MPVs of all sizes and categories have had to adapt to changing market demand repeatedly over the past three decades. Now again, major investments are necessary to meet new environmental and operational requirements. Conditions for ordering new tonnage seem favourable.

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Fleet overview - DNV GL
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dwt vs swl - DNV GL
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Age structure - DNV GL
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Regulations implications - DNV GL

Overview of the current MPV fleet

About 9,000 multipurpose vessels (MPVs) of all categories are currently operating in the market. This includes general dry cargo ships, open-hatch cargo vessels, deck carriers and multipurpose project carriers (MPPs). Of the total number of around 2,300 MPPs, only 457 are fitted with cranes with a lifting capacity (safe working load, SWL) of more than 99 tonnes each.

Heavy-lift MPP fleet by dwt and safe working load (SWL)

Most MPPs are in the category above 5,000 dwt, primarily in the 11,000 to 14,000 dwt range (Beluga-E/F series and F500 vessel types). About two-thirds of them have a lifting capacity of 100 to 199 tonnes. Over the past 20 years crane capacities have increased fivefold to 1,000 tonnes, but 100 to 200 tonnes is still the most common SWL range for all vessel sizes combined.

Age structure of the global HL MPP fleet

105 of the 457 heavy-lift (HL) MPPs will soon be 20 years or older. The 5,000 to 7,999 dwt segment will lose around 55% of its fleet within the next few years with only very few newbuilds delivered in the last years. The size class above 20,000 dwt includes many ships built over the past decade, yet it will lose about 20% of its fleet in the next ten years, while the 11,000 to 14,000 dwt segment will even lose nearly half of its fleet by 2030. At that time IMO wants the carbon intensity of the world fleet to be 40% lower than in 2008. New tonnage must therefore comply with the CO2 emission restrictions.

Compliance with new regulations

Most of the vessels delivered pre-2011 are generally not fitted with a ballast water treatment system, and most vessels delivered up until 2011/12 are unlikely to reflect the latest developments on the cargo side and are considerably less fuel-efficient under today’s operating conditions. Even upgraded vessels will be at a disadvantage compared with modern tonnage.

A good time to order

In view of the age profile, efficiency and compliance status of the fleet in service, this is a good time to order new vessels. Newbuilding prices in China seem to have bottomed out, and the order book is very small. Some charterers only accept vessels younger than 15 years. Second-hand prices have increased but there are few good vessels on the market. Newbuilds are more suitable for today’s market needs and therefore more competitive.

Changing newbuilding market

Chinese yards are losing interest in building MPPs, preferring to build larger, more profitable vessels, and HL MPPs are often believed to be too complex. The number of competent HL MPP builders in China is dropping, and prices may increase soon. Only about 80 eligible newbuilding yards are left in China, and many specialize in other segments.

Design developments

Modern HL MPPs have fewer but larger cargo holds to accommodate large project cargo such as wind turbine blades, long rail sections and chemical reactors. Lifting capacities and outreaches have increased over time. The “Hatchcoverless” class notation allows F800f-type vessels to operate with open hatch covers when carrying oversized project cargo. Advanced ships are much more fuel-efficient thanks to design optimization for a specific operating profile, the use of modern engine designs, and optimized hull lines.

Which different vessel sizes are needed for a typical major transport project?

This graph shows the distribution of all required cargo items for a single project (assumed to be a power plant in a remote location in South America). A small number of very heavy modules or super-modules must be carried by dedicated deck carriers. Pieces weighing between 500 and 1,000 tonnes are typically carried by HL MPPs; heavier ones require a premium project carrier with high crane capacity, whereas medium-weight items between 100 and 500 tonnes can be carried on heavy-lift MPPs with appropriate crane capacity. Most of the cargo pieces are lighter and can be carried on simpler and cheaper ships, such as light MPPs, open-hatch carriers, containerships, bulk carrier or RoRo ships. For heavy-lift vessels it is important to be able to carry cargo of any kind and weight efficiently to avoid losing cargo to competitors.

Increasing cargo unit sizes

This example illustrates how cargo unit sizes have increased, requiring HL MPPs with longer cargo holds, e.g. for wind turbine rotor diameters of up to 220 m. Rail sections have grown from 25 m to as much as 110 m per section to reduce on-site construction work.

Planning a newbuild for tomorrow's cargo requirements

Maximizing income from each vessel is the owner’s top priority. Cargo flexibility and avoiding ballast trips are key parameters. Therefore the cargo hold dimensions, loading capacity, availability as well as limitations associated with damaged and intact stability are important considerations when planning a newbuild. The design speed and operational profile need to be carefully selected to meet the needs of cargo owners and charterers, accounting for voyage duration, fuel efficiency, loading flexibility and port and infrastructure limitations.

Design criteria for next-generation HL MPPs

The desired operational profile, including typical speeds and draught, directly influence the hull lines, rudder design and engine capacity as well as the best fuel strategy to achieve compliance with the IMO greenhouse gas goals. Some routes may require Polar Code compliance and/or ice class. If the vessel will carry voluminous project cargo, a forward deckhouse is advisable. To minimize port times, flexibility regarding the way cargo is loaded and unloaded must be kept in mind. Stability pontoons during crane operation should be avoided; crane operation out of port and ship operation with crane booms topped up should be possible.

How DNV GL can support you

DNV GL offers a wide range of services to owners, yards and designers. The earlier we get involved in the pre-planning stages of a newbuild, the more value we can deliver by enabling design modifications at the best time while avoiding unnecessary extra costs. DNV GL can provide support in interdisciplinary project meetings and/or through a specification and general-arrangement-plan review.

Entering a new era for the heavy-lift business

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