18 Apr 2017

Reading time 4 min

Boosted container carriers can better serve their customers

Three 2011-delivered 14,000 TEU container ships, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury, have re-entered service for V-Ships following a cargo system upgrade from MacGregor; they are now more flexible and can carry an additional payload capacity of 260 FEUs

Container demographics are changing. In today’s climate, operators need to be flexible enough to manage that change, but their vessels also need to be capable of accommodating it.

According to the Container Census report issued by shipping consultancy firm Drewry in July 2015, the biggest numerical growth, over 10 percent, was witnessed in the marine industry’s 40ft-high-cube (FEU) fleet of principally dry freight and reefer containers, as against five percent for the 20ft (TEU) counterpart. By the end of 2014, the TEU fleet accounted for the majority of all maritime equipment for the first time.

This development has not gone unnoticed. Shanghai-based shipping company, China Shipping Container Line (CSCL) and UK ship management company V-Ships began to see that there was business opportunities available for 40ft containers, but not enough vacant slots for them. The issue was raised in a meeting between MacGregor and CSCL at the beginning of 2015.

Realising possibilities

Three CSCL-owned 14,000 TEU container vessels, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury, originally built by Samsung Heavy Industries in 2011 and under long-term charter to V-Ships, were due to be drydocked in early 2016. The question was raised: could something be done to improve the earning capability of these ships? With the drydock slots already booked, a second question was posed: could it be done at the same time to keep costs down and avoid additional vessel downtime?

Together with the owner and operator, MacGregor reviewed what kind of ship productivity improvement was possible and judged whether it was achievable. This service was carried out under the umbrella of a MacGregor Cargo Boost, part of MacGregor’s PlusPartner concept.

The importance of data

“To be able to come up with an accurate Cargo Boost proposal, MacGregor needed information about the current cargo mix and operating profiles, including route-specific data,” explains Atte Virta, Naval Architect for Container ship cargo systems at MacGregor.  “Critical information that was used in the analysis comprised Baplie files, which indicate what containers are loaded on board the ship and where container data, as well as other vessel loading data. Different options were presented and the customer was able to review them to find the best fit for its cargo profile and earning opportunities.”

The Cargo Boost will enable an additional payload capacity of 260-high cube FEUs
(585 TEUs) and will give the vessels more operational flexibility. This helps us to adapt to changing markets

– Captain Lu, CSCL

CSCL, the operator V-Ships and their joint venture company, China International Ship Management (CISM), participated in the upgrade process. CISM specialises in coordinating with shipyards and made the choice about which shipyard would be most suitable to carry out the work. China Shipping Industry Co ltd (CIC) was chosen.

“A three-party start-up meeting with MacGregor, CSCL and the CIC repair yard was a very efficient way to go through the planned proposals and for everyone to have their say and agree the on the steps that needed to be taken,” he notes.

Atte Virta and Janne Suominen, also inspected the vessel prior to the work commencing.

A good result

The MacGregor Cargo Boost has delivered an additional payload capacity of 260 FEUs (equivalent to 585 TEUs) to each vessel. “We have been able to maximise the overall efficiency of the upgrades by carrying them out in combination with the ships’ regular five-year dockings,” says Captain Lu, General Manager at CSCL Stowage Planning Centre. In addition to the extra payload capacity, Captain Lu adds: “The Cargo Boost will give the vessels more operational flexibility. This helps us to adapt to changing markets.”

“All vessels had their internal lashings converted to an external lashing arrangement. This delivered a much better loading profile. Further to that, lashing bridge extensions, commonly called ‘mouse ears’, were built behind each vessel’s accommodation block in areas where there were no visibility restrictions. Also the latest route-specific rules were considered and Lashmate lashing calculation software was used to maximise the vessels’ cargo system utilisation capacity,” says Mr Virta.

“MacGregor was not only able to design upgrades that would best serve the operator’s needs, but it was possible to realise them in a cost-conscious way,” he notes.

MacGregor supplied the design and key components of the cargo system, as well as supervision. MacGregor also arranged all classification approvals and took responsibility for testing, commissioning and start-up training for personnel. The ship’s crew installed the new loose container lashings with guidance from MacGregor, while CIC shipyard took care of the steelwork

Essential local expertise

An essential part of the successful Cargo Boost was the presence of MacGregor’s local personnel in China. “We were able to serve the customer locally without any delay, both in the preparations and during the production phase,” says Daniel Wang, Quality Controller and Commissioning Engineer at MacGregor China. “We were there for the customer and to ensure that MacGregor’s quality requirements were met at every stage of the process.”

“The challenging one-month time-frame from order to delivery, to meet the pre-booked drydocking schedules, was possible because of MacGregor’s dedicated experts and its agile, flexible process. Depending on the delivery scope, the ideal lead-time from system decision to delivery is between one and three months.

“We believe it pays off to spend as much time as possible making the right decision, so analysis and the evaluation of different Cargo Boost solutions should ideally occur about twelve months prior to the work being carried out,” concludes Mr Virta.