Ice-class laker bulk carrier tops off successful collaboration on 50 vessels
The Canadian shipowner Fednav operates a large fleet of mostly ice-class and ice-breaking bulk carriers in Arctic waters and around the world. The latest delivery, their 50th vessel classed DNV GL, sets new standards for efficiency, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent.
In August 2019 the Canadian shipowning company Fednav took delivery of its latest 34,500 dwt ice-class handysize bulk carrier Federal Montreal from Oshima Shipbuilding. The delivery coincided with a very special occasion. "Celebrating the delivery of our 50th DNV GL-classed vessel in the same year as our 75th anniversary is a fitting demonstration of our commitment to offering the highest-quality services to our customers with innovative and environmentally sensitive vessels,” said Paul Pathy, President and CEO of Fednav.
Eiichi Hiraga, President of Oshima Shipbuilding, emphasized the strength of the partnership between Fednav, DNV GL and Oshima: “We look forward to further cementing this strong alliance for many years to come.” On the same note, Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV GL – Maritime, pointed out that the three companies have much in common: “Our shared values and passion for safety, innovation and quality enable the continuing delivery of exceptional vessels.”
Lakers ‒ a special type of ship
Federal Montreal is a so-called laker, with proportions specifically designed to navigate the St Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. Compared to typical bulk carriers which have a length-to-beam ratio of 5.5 or 6 to 1, lakers are narrower, with a ratio of roughly 9 to 1. This results in structural challenges requiring very careful design considerations. Federal Montreal will trade internationally as well as up the St Lawrence River and the Great Lakes region and is one of six newbuilds contracted to Oshima Shipbuilding as part of Fednav’s vessel replacement programme. Designed to emit 30 per cent less greenhouse gases than similar vessels, the ship features state-of-the-art eco-friendly machinery and equipment, including an Optimarin Ultraviolet ballast water treatment system. The main engine is a Mitsui, MAN B&W 5S50ME-C9.5.
Fednav began working with DNV GL about a quarter century ago, says Tom Paterson, senior VP Ship Owning, Arctic and Projects, at Fednav. The relationship has grown steadily over the years, and within the past ten years, Fednav went from owning 15 DNV GL-classed ships to 50. Many Fednav vessels have ice class, and some are ice-breaking ships that can operate in icy waters without support. “We run the three biggest ice-breaking bulk carriers in the world, which are all classed with DNV GL,” says Paterson. “We call these ‘mine support vessels’.” Their development has been a collaborative effort between DNV GL, the shipyard JMU Corp and Fednav. The three partners combine a lot of knowledge, and with the Umiak I, the Nunavik and the latest Tier III ice breaking mine support vessel newbuild (to be named Arvik I) scheduled for delivery in late October 2020, we have built very special ships.”
Close relationships help overcome industry challenges
Mutual trust and the quality of communication are key to the successful cooperation between Fednav, Oshima and DNV GL, Paterson continues. “There is always an open door for us at DNV GL. We can call at any time and will get access to the right people immediately.” A compatible corporate culture supports this close relationship: “This is part of the reason we’re good friends with DNV GL. In companies where this is not the case, there is a lot of fear. I don’t believe in that; I prefer the open-book concept where everybody is treated equally.”
The industry is facing huge challenges, says Paterson: “The short-term challenge is cash flow; the current rates and earnings are insufficient to continue replacing ageing tonnage. The medium-term challenge is knowing when and what to build. We are now looking at ‘Generation 4’ lakers which will be Tier III-compliant and only consume about 19 tonnes of fuel per day at 14 knots, instead of 29 tonnes of fuel per day like our first-generation lakers built 20 years ago. These new vessels will have the same length and beam as their older sisters, but this new design will result in huge savings in fuel costs and emissions.”
Facing public scrutiny, the industry must determine how to best reduce its carbon footprint. “The younger generation today are correct in expecting us to do better,” Paterson says plainly. “Fednav has committed not to use open-loop scrubbers to protect marine life from wash water pollution. Heavy fuel oil in general is becoming a thing of the past; its consumption is likely to be banned in the Arctic before long.” But deciding what engines to put into future lakers is difficult because of their proportions and trading patterns. “For example, dual-fuel engines on ships operating on non-routine duty will have difficulties using LNG because the boil-off gas must be used to avoid wasteful venting, unless costly reliquefaction equipment is on board,” says Paterson. “Batteries and fuel cells add significant deadweight and encounter problems at very low ambient temperatures.”
Embracing new technologies
Nevertheless, Fednav has always been open to new ideas. The company ran an experimental liquid hydrogen project as early as 1990. Today the technology is attracting more attention but technical challenges remain. Hybrid power systems are more promising: “We turn to DNV GL to work with us on hybrid designs because as an owner, we don’t have the naval architects and engineers in-house,” Paterson points out. “Our management is very keen on this idea.” Furthermore, Fednav has agreed with Oshima to meet and brainstorm at least twice a year so as to look at new technology and keep abreast of the development.
With 2020 in mind, Fednav made sure its ships would be in full compliance with sulphur limits and ballast water treatment requirements, retrofitting its fleet early to avoid the expected bottleneck towards the end of 2019 when the dry docks were fully booked for scrubber and ballast water installations. “By being proactive, and with the help of DNV GL, we have managed to get our ships ready. Fifty retrofits at 400,000 to 500,000 US dollars each are a ‘big ticket item’,” says Paterson.
Living the digital transformation
“We at Fednav want to be leaders, not followers,” says Paterson. “We have great expectations for the digital age, and we are digitalizing many processes in-house. We hired an IT specialist to tackle our digital transformation and created the position of vice president of strategy; both are entirely new positions. I think we’ve taken the right steps now to be at the digital forefront.” The digital services offered by class fit in neatly with this approach, Paterson stresses. More flexible survey schedules and remote surveys are more than welcome, and highly responsive online class services and easy access to experts, such as DNV GL’s DATE service, make a big difference for owners like Fednav, as well. The digital age further improves cooperation with class in many ways for the benefit of both: “A successful DNV GL is good for Fednav, and a successful shipowner is good for DNV GL.”
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