Cable layer and shortsea dry cargo bulkers highlight Sri Lankan shipbuilder’s backlog of newbuild orders won in 2020
While 2020 has been marked by a downturn in global shipbuilding, Colombo Dockyard Plc has bucked the trend, building its backlog with notable newbuilding contracts from European, Middle Eastern and Asian shipowners.
Lying at the nexus of major shipping lanes on the Indian Ocean in the Port of Colombo – one of the busiest ports in south Asia – the Sri Lankan shipyard has an annual turnover of US$150M, about two-thirds of which is generated from shipbuilding activities. One of Colombo Dockyard’s most recently signed contracts is to build a cable-lay and repair vessel for one of the largest submarine telecommunications engineering firms in the world.
Controlling about 15% of the world’s cable vessel fleet, France’s Orange Marine is spending a reported EUR50M (US$60M) on the newbuild, which is designed specifically for the repair of submarine cables, either fibre optic telecommunications cables or power cables connecting offshore wind turbines. It will replace 1983-built Raymond Croze, which will be 40-years old when the new vessel is delivered in H1 2023.
Keeping the internet upKeeping the internet up and running will be one of the missions of the new cable layer. Submarine cables are the backbone of the internet and despite optimised route choices and protective measures taken during their installation, faults interrupting their operation are regularly observed, said Orange Marine. This can cause major disruption to the operation of the internet and international telecommunications services and in such cases a cable ship must be deployed.This will be the mission of this new vessel, mobilised to intervene within 24 hours, 365 days a year if necessary. For the newbuild design, Orange Marine went to naval architect and marine engineering firm Vard, which supplied the design for the shipowner’s 2014-built Pierre de Fermat. Designed specifically by Norway’s Vard Design AS to lower greenhouse gas emissions, the newbuild cable-layer’s streamlined hull and hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system will significantly reduce fuel consumption – by as much as 25% says Orange Marine – compared to the average for cable ships in service.
The Vard 9 03 design vessel’s hybrid energy management will be based on four diesel generators and electrical storage, with back-up provided by a battery system in case of an unexpected generator shutdown. Propulsion will be supplied by two Azipod thrusters aft, with added manoeuvrability from two tunnel thrusters forward.
Additionally, the vessel will be equipped to plug into shore power to significantly reduce its carbon footprint when docked.As a result of these design elements, Orange Marine expects the newbuild cable layer to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% and NOx emissions by 80% compared to Raymond Croze.
With an overall length of 100 m, beam of 18.8 m and depth of 7.15 m, the vessel will be able to accommodate 76.
For its cable-laying duties, the French flag-vessel will be equipped with three cable tanks to carry fiber optic and power cables, one of which will be fitted with a carousel. To expedite repairs, the vessel will be fitted with a hangar to store and safely launch its remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which will cut, inspect and bury the cables.
Carving out a cable-layer niche
Carving out a niche in the cable-layer construction market, this contract follows on Colombo Dockyard’s delivery of KDDI Cable Infinity in 2019. Built for Japanese submarine cable installation company Kokusai Cable Ship Co (KCS) at a cost of US$53M, KDDI Cable Infinity is the largest vessel yet constructed at Colombo Dockyard. With a length of 113.1 m, beam of 21.5 m, depth of 8.8 m depth and maximum load-laying draught of 7.1 m and accommodation for 80, KDDI Cable Infinity is based on a Vard 9 01 design. KDDI Cable Infinity has diesel-electric propulsion supplied by four generator sets, developing 2,300 kW each. Three of the four generators are sufficient to cope with the highest propulsion power demands, ensuring high reliability. The vessel is also fitted with an exhaust gas scrubber and a selective catalytic converter (SCR) to comply with IMO 2020 0.50% sulphur cap regulations. Transit at economic speed with two engines efficiently running will optimise fuel consumption.
To meet its increased shipbuilding and ship repair activity, Colombo Dockyard has invested in the “biggest collection of heavy steel processing and welding machinery in Sri Lanka,” shipbuilding marketing head Prince Lye told Marine Propulsion.
“Colombo Dockyard’s biggest asset is its workers”
Under recent investments the shipyard has added new automatic blasting and priming machines, CNC plasma cutting machines, hydraulic rollers for plate rolling, 500 tonne press machines, PSPC combined blasting and painting halls, 160 tonne-, 70 tonne- and 50 tonne-capacity dockside cranes and modernised pipe fabrication shops.
While bending plate and processing steel is critical to meeting shipbuilding and ship repair needs, Mr Lye said Colombo Dockyard’s “biggest asset” is its workers. The shipbuilder is investing “in human capital development and implementing effective human resource practices and policies to develop and build an efficient and effective workforce aligned with corporate objectives for the success of the shipyard.” Colombo Dockyard employs about 1,500 permanent workers and an additional 1,500 subcontractors.
Hybrid propulsion bulk carriers
In October, Norwegian shipowner Misje Eco Bulk As contracted for a series of 5,000-dwt hybrid battery propulsion bulk carriers. Based on a Wärtsilä design, the shortsea dry cargo Eco Bulkers will operate on a combination of marine gasoil (MGO) and batteries supplied by Corvus Energy. This will enable the 89.95 m vessels to sail in and out of port as well as perform cargo operations completely emission free, said Misje Eco Bulk. Colombo Dockyard has a contract to build three of the Eco Bulkers, and possibly three others if options are exercised. Delivery of the first vessel is in mid 2022. The bulk carriers are designed to be converted to zero emission as the technology emerges, said the Bergen-based vessel owner.
Other current newbuild projects at the shipyard are a 60 m buoy tender vessel and a 50 m catamaran-hulled pilot station vessel for General Company of Ports of Iraq, secured through Japan’s Toyota Tsusho Corporation under a JICA-funded project.
Colombo Dockyard is constructing the third in a series of three pilot boats designed by Mac Duff Ship Design Scotland for Sri Lanka Ports Authority, and another pilot/patrol boat designed by Mac Duff Ship Design Scotland for an Indian port.
To support ship repair activity, Colombo Dockyard operates four graving drydocks with maximum capacity of 125,000 dwt and repair berth facilities. Besides routine dry docking repairs, the shipyard handles major layup repairs, collision damage repairs, conversions and retrofits and the installation of ballast water treatment systems.
Japanese shipbuilder Onomichi Dockyard Company controls a 51% interest in the shipyard, and Sri Lankan government institutions that hold a 35% stake. The remaining interest is held by public entities.