The importance of early collaboration between the cargo system developer and container ship owner is illustrated by MSC Gülsün, says MacGregor, which designed the cargo handling system
MacGregor director of customer solutions Tommi Keskilohko said a cargo system needs to be looked at holistically, rather than looking at individual elements. “So we need to look at a combination of different cargo system elements: hatch covers, lashing bridges and lashing systems.”
He continued “What we have been trying to promote is that when a shipowner buys a new ship, they should think about the intended trade the vessel will be deployed upon and use that trade as a basis for defining the cargo system to get the best possible system, while being flexible enough to shift to other trades.”
Crucial to achieving this goal is the cargo system developer and container ship operator/owner working together on the system to be used at an early stage. Mr Keskilohko singles out MSC Gülsün as a good example of this. MacGregor designed the cargo system for the world’s largest container ship, delivered in July 2019 by South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries. It is 400 m long, 61.5 m wide and is the first in a series of 11 ultra-large container ships with a capacity of more than 23,000 TEU. Six of the vessels are being built by Samsung Heavy Industries and the other five by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.
Mr Keskilohko said “MSC Gülsün is a good example as to how we worked with the owner, understood its needs and made a cargo system that fitted.
“I think it is a textbook example of how we should work together with owners, as collaboration started with MSC at early stage of the project.”
While the ship is the largest box ship in the world, it was not such a leap for MacGregor, as it has previously worked with ships as large as 20,000 TEU, so there was “not a big change” for 23,000 TEU.
Mr Keskilohko said “From the technical point of view it was not that big a deal – it was more about processes and how we got there, working together and looking into different alternatives for technical solutions and finding a way to have nominal and actual carrying capacity as close as possible to each other.
“We cannot give exact figures, but the nominal capacity and what the vessel can actually carry are quite close to each other. It gives an opportunity for a liner to carry a different mix of cargo, as the ship is flexible and not just designed for 20 ft or 40 ft containers, but a mix of 20 ft, 40 ft, high cube and reefer containers and containers of different weight categories.”
The cargo system design, combined with a 24-container-wide ship design, takes MSC Gülsün’s total container capacity to 23,756 TEU, which is 1,500 TEU more than the largest container ships have previously carried.
Clearly, a consideration of the cargo mix is important when it comes to planning the cargo-carrying systems of container ships. Mr Keskilohko said “Together with the shipowner, we take existing information on the trade the ship will be operating and look at what cargo they will be carrying, whether it be reefer, TEU or FEU and so we get a cargo mix of what it is typically carrying on the trade.”
MacGregor then uses a tool to simulate the cargo system, using various models to identify the best solution.
Mr Keskilohko highlighted how shipowners are paying much more attention to their cargo-carrying solutions. “Owners have become more interested now, they don’t want something standard. One reason for this is that 10 years’ back ships were much smaller. But then ships got larger and larger and owners realised they needed to think differently about the performance of the vessels. It has been a combination of raising awareness among owners – and we have been active there – and partly coming from the financial pressure owners are facing. They need to find ways to be more efficient and using more efficient cargo systems is one way to do it.”
Cargo carrying systems are also helping to cut emissions. “We are able to load more cargo on board, which affects sustainability,” said Mr Keskilohko. “By increasing the capability of carrying more cargo with the same consumption of fuel, the emissions per transported tonne is less.”
And there is still a focus on retrofitting current container ships with MacGregor’s Cargo Boost solution, despite the focus on preparing for the 2020 low sulphur cap. Mr Keskilohko said “Owners are quite busy with scrubbers and other 2020 preparations. But we are still doing a good amount of Cargo Boost retrofits. I think owners understand there is a good business potential in upgrading existing cargo ships while the vessel is being docked anyway.”