Since joining the maritime industry more than 28 years ago, Wilhelmsen Ship Management’s Paal Gunnulfsen has witnessed a step change in safety and in the quality of ship management operations
A major contributing factor in the overall improvement in ship management operations and safety over the last three decades is the “gradual tightening of oil major requirements through stringent vetting regimes and the Tanker Manager Self-Assessment (TMSA) declaration,” says Wilhelmsen Ship Management’s (WSM) Paal Gunnulfsen.
TMSA was developed by the Oil Companies Marine International Forum (OCIMF) to assist shipowners and operators in assessing their safety management systems (SMS), required under the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. Using TMSA, owners can measure and improve upon any aspect in their SMS that might be sub-standard or weak. WSM maintains an updated TMSA that is reviewed by oil majors.
“Oil majors’ stronger involvement in downstream activities has been healthy for the industry,” says Mr Gunnulfsen, “and has definitely made an improvement in safety and quality.” He also notes that oil majors are now more open to third-party managers then they were before, “particularly in the LNG segment”.
Managing gas carriers for more than 25 years, Singapore-based WSM today has 40 liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and LNG carriers under its care. Part of Oslo-listed Wilh Wilhelmsen Holding ASA, WSM generated US$41M in revenue in 2018, servicing 370 ships and employing 9,500 seafarers. Of the ships serviced, 40% were on technical management and 5% were on layup management.
In 2018, WSM relocated its global head office from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singapore, entered the wind offshore market through a 50% acquisition of the Norsea Group, and opened a new office in Southampton, UK.
App for efficiency
Since WSM began managing gas ships, the shipping sector as a whole has come under increasing international, regional and local regulatory pressure to improve efficiency and reduce CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. Fuel consumption has become a primary focus of vessel operators. “As a ship manager,” says Mr Gunnulfsen, “we aim to operate the vessels we manage in compliance and as efficiently as possible.” To that end, WSM has invested in a number of digital solutions that monitor emissions and optimise vessel performance.
One of those is Spark, a web-based vessel energy efficiency application that allows owners to monitor vessel performance and safety records on their mobile devices. Launched in 2019, Spark allows shipowners and operators immediate access to energy efficiency data and a ranking of their fleet, while providing a quick analysis and insight on fuel consumption drivers.
“Vessels produce huge amounts of operational data,” says WSM. “This is highly complex information and it is easy to get lost in the ‘data jungle’. Spark identifies and visualises critical fuel-related data, so key stakeholders can easily use the information to their advantage.”
One feature of Spark is ‘gamification’, a relatively recent trend in apps that uses game elements such as points and scoring to increase user engagement. In the case of Spark, gamification is used to increase competition between vessels in a fleet to improve their fuel consumption performance. Winners are ‘honoured’ for energy efficiency. The app can be used to drill down to examine elements that are impacting the fuel consumption, increasing transparency for owners, operators and masters, while providing recommended actions.
Ultimately, says Mr Gunnulfsen, complying with environmental regulations boils down to financial investments, making it the owner’s decision in the end.
As the one-time president of Hoegh LNG Fleet Management AS, Mr Gunnulfsen is well experienced in the technical management of gas ships. A graduate of NTNU in Trondheim, Norway, with a Master of Science degree in marine engineering, Mr Gunnulfsen has been a technical superintendent for tankers and product carriers and a newbuilding project manager for construction programmes for aframax crude carriers, product tankers and a diesel-electric LNG carrier. He knows his way around a shipyard.
Dry docking has strong influence on ship performance
“Dry docking is one of the most important events in a ship’s lifecycle and has a strong influence on the ship’s performance and efficiency,” he says. “It is very important that the management of the dry-docking event is done correctly to maximise owner’s investment.” He explains the planning for dry docking starts 12 months before the actual dry-docking process takes place. During a dry docking, an LNG carrier might undergo a laundry list of repairs, inspections and equipment upgrades, from cleaning, blasting and painting to main engine inspection, shaft inspection and cargo tank inspection, to pump overhaul and electronics upgrades.
“We have a dedicated dry-dock support team that manages dry-dock projects from planning stage until completion. The shipyard selection is based on a variety of factors that includes the owner’s docking objective, our previous experience and results of our yard audits.” Class certificates are valid for five years and the so-called intermediate survey after 2.5 years can be done with the vessel afloat.
Among its value-added services for LNG shipping, WSM will provide life-extension studies and implementation, preparation of vetting inspections by continuous engagement with ship staff. It also conducts pre-vetting sailing visits and floating storage unit (FSU) and floating storage regasification unit (FSRU) conversion, management and newbuilding.
Selecting the right shipyard
WSM says that selecting the right shipyard to build your new ship is the best opportunity to influence the quality of your newbuilding and its lifecycle costs thereafter. About 90% of the world’s commercial shipping tonnage is built in Asia, with shipyards in South Korea, China and Japan dominating the LNG newbuild sector, with more than 150 LNG carriers on order.
In a move to grow its newbuilding supervision arm, WSM partnered with Shanghai-based Westeast Marine Consulting Co Ltd (WEM) in 2018.
In a white paper, Selecting the right shipyard, WMS and WEM share their collective findings, gathered from an audit of Chinese shipyards, which they suggest shipowners utilise when choosing a shipyard for their newbuild programme. The whitepaper recommends a shipyard audit should assess three key areas: shipyard facilities and implemented processes; production capacity; and inspecting a newbuild at the shipyard that is close to completion.
To assess the shipyard facilities, the whitepaper recommends a visual inspection in order to observe the shipyard’s working environment, production flow and processes throughout the facilities. This will provide an indication of the organisation, planning, management and resource control of the shipyard.
Crucial in determining whether there is a building slot for your newbuild programme is to assess the total production capacity and track record of previous and ongoing projects at the shipyard. Any assessment needs to look beyond the physical facility itself by also evaluating the strength of management and employees at the shipyard. The ratio of employees working in production, quality control and the design department should be reviewed to assess the capability of the shipyard to ensure that skilled labour is not a potential bottleneck to your newbuild programme.
The whitepaper makes a point that one’s eyes should not be ignored. Abandoned shipbuilding projects in a shipyard, rusted blocks and incomplete ships in dry dock are red flags and could well impact a shipyard’s production capacity and efficiency.
Ideally, if the opportunity presents itself, a shipowner should inspect a newbuilding that is close to completion at the facility to assess the shipbuilding quality and workmanship. An inspection is not always possible, as it would require approval from both the vessel’s owner and the shipyard.
Paal Gunnulfsen is vice president region Asia at Wilhelmsen Ship Management