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Reinventing Ultramax

As the dry bulk segment slowly emerges from its decade-long crisis, its fleet is in need of rejuvenation to meet new economic and ecological requirements. Continuing a long-standing partnership, the Graig Shipping Group and DNV GL have joined forces to develop the next generation of Ultramax bulk carriers.

In early 2017 Hugh Williams, Chairman and CEO of the Graig Shipping Group, and Andrew Westwood, Senior Vice President, Business Development Region South East Asia, Pacific & India at DNV GL – Maritime, met to brainstorm a new project. The two men were no strangers, having worked together on the development of the Diamond 53 bulk carrier design around the turn of the millennium, meeting the needs of the time for stronger, safer vessels. This had resulted in a highly successful project which shifted safety standards up and resulted in 110 Diamonds and Diamond derivative units being delivered from 2002 onwards. What followed was the financial crisis and a collapse in the bulk market, which brought newbuilding activities to a virtual halt and prompted the family-owned Welsh shipping company to focus on other initiatives.

Assessing market needs

Sensing the signs of recovery in early 2017 Hugh Williams and Chris Williams, Graig’s Commercial Director, concluded that the time seemed appropriate to revisit what had been a highly successful Graig/DNV GL partnership. Graig thus approached DNV GL to discuss the prospects for a new generation of ships designed for today’s market expectations, this time around with a main focus on fuel efficiency and utilizing cutting-edge technology. After all, most of the fleet currently in service was not designed to comply with the new and future environmental and efficiency standards, despite the dry bulk segment being under pressure from stakeholders to modernize ships and comply with a host of new regulations. “There is a gap in the dry bulk market for quality, fuel-efficient, competitively priced and environmentally friendly dry bulk ships to service the needs of end users,” said Hugh Williams. So the Graig leadership team sat down with Andrew Westwood to assess what the industry really needed and how those needs could best be met.

They began by gathering all the requirements and standards that needed to be addressed, and spoke extensively with cargo owners and operators about their needs and how to future-proof the design they were envisioning. The proven Diamond 53 design served as a basis for the project they called “Diamond 2”.

“One need not look further than the recent IMO meetings held in London to see that the rate of change is accelerating with respect to environmental requirements, in particular emissions. It is thus becoming essential that new designs are pitched at a high level if they are to retain value and be attractive in future markets. This can be viewed as both an opportunity and a threat. With the merger of DNV and GL we have been able to pool world-class maritime technology leaders and this project brings the focus on the real workhorses of the bulk industry. With more demanding cargo owners, who face pressure from shareholders, and the strong likelihood of increased and early scrapping, we see a strong market need for new cutting-edge technology to facilitate such a step forward. We are thus excited to once again be involved with Graig in this new ’Diamond 2‘ design,” said Andrew Westwood.

For this initiative to work, it was also essential to identify and work closely with designers with proven competence and experience in working with Chinese yards. In that regard Dr Zhao Ye and his team at Econovo Marine Engineering Co., one of the leading designers for bulk carriers, came with very strong credentials, including being responsible for the very successful Crown 63 Ultramax design (in excess of 80 vessels built), and as such a wealth of experience in working with many well-known top-ranking yards in China. The result of this teamwork was the development of a sophisticated yet robust 63,200 dwt Ultramax dry bulk carrier, the “Diamond 2 63K“.

Since the design was finalized, Graig has lead talks with all major dry cargo end users and the feedback has been very positive, with time charter offers for long-term periods.

The best of technologies

The “Diamond 2” Ultramax design aspires to become the class-leading ship of its type, focusing on operational efficiency and flexibility, low fuel consumption and compliance with all present and future environmental standards. It takes advantage of state-of-the-art hull optimization, ballast water management and easily installed exhaust gas cleaning technology. By DNV GL’s formal hull optimization service ECO Lines the hull lines were extensively refined using leading-edge computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation technology, parametric modelling and systematic optimization for well-researched operating profiles. The design avoids using appendages, instead featuring an asymmetric stern, a high-efficiency propeller and a rudder with a vortex-reducing bulb. The vertical bow design improves performance across a wide range of weather conditions. Graig expects the efficiency enhancements to result in a fuel consumption of 14.6 tonnes per day at an optimized speed of twelve knots. DNV GL’s Build2Design service will ensure close adherence to the design specifications in resistance-critical areas during hull construction.

The vessel will be equipped with a highly fuel-efficient, reliable MAN main engine. Sophisticated software was used to optimize the auxiliary machinery and all on-board power-dependent systems to provide maximum efficiency with minimum fuel consumption. To reduce the load on the generator sets, the designers opted for low-consumption, low-maintenance LED lighting as well as frequency-controlled seawater cooling pumps and engine room fans. Waste heat recovered from two auxiliary engines and an exhaust gas economizer are used to power a section of the boiler. DNV GL’s COSSMOS machinery modelling tool was used to assess and improve the integrated system of the vessel.

The vessel will be fully scrubber-ready so owners can choose between installing or retrofitting a scrubber system or operating on low-sulphur fuel to comply with SECA and in-port emission restrictions. The main and auxiliary engines are NOX Tier III-compliant. The Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) can meet Phase 3 requirements, which are 30 per cent below the IMO reference line for bulk carriers.

Ballast water management is handled using an IMO-approved treatment plant which conforms to the strict requirements of the United States Coast Guard. Advanced measuring and data cap-turing equipment will be installed on board to supply a constant stream of data for comprehensive performance and efficiency monitoring and controlling, a key feature highlighted by cargo owners during the project development phase.

Tomorrow’s Ultramax

The ship’s five cargo holds provide plenty of loading flexibility and are designed to facilitate efficient cleaning. The tank tops are strong enough to carry heavy cargoes. The double-skin, hydraulic folding-type hatch covers are double-sealed to protect cargo such as grains from seawater ingress. Four on-board 35-tonne cargo cranes with efficient, pollution-free electric winches allow the vessel to perform loading and unloading operations without shore assistance. For crew security, the steering gear room doubles as a citadel in the event of a pirate attack. On-board noise and vibration emission levels are kept low to enhance crew comfort, and the accommodation is MLC2006-compliant.

Graig plans to expand the “Diamond 2” platform to include larger-sized vessels, including mini-Capesize ships. A number of delivery slots have been reserved with selected yards in China, and newbuilding deals with several owners and operators are currently being negotiated. Newbuilding supervision and post-delivery technical management will be provided by the Graig collaboration partner V.Group in Shanghai. “This advanced ‘Diamond 2’ family of designs responds to the industry’s needs,” emphasizes Hugh Williams. “We expect this design to be the first of several series of larger-capacity, future-proof vessels, backed by the strength of the ‘Diamond 2’ consortium. We have been able to draw on circa 25 years’ experience working in China and next year the group will celebrate 100 years since its founding.” The first “Diamond 2” vessels are expected to be delivered in 2019.

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Erik Mathias Sørhaug

Erik Mathias Sørhaug

Business Development Director CO2 Shipping

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