China’s AVIC Weihai has its sights set on winning more international ferry newbuild orders on the back of its Stena contract – and is aiming to use this experience to enter the cruise shipbuilding market
China’s AVIC Weihai shipyard, one of shipyards under AVIC Ship, aims to become a “first-class, international” shipyard within the ropax sector after scooping a newbuild order from Stena.
Stena has ordered eight ropax ships with four optional vessels at AVIC Weihai shipyard, representing the shipyard’s first ever ferry order.
The shipyard is justly proud of this order. As vice president of AVIC Weihai Shipyard Eric Deng told Passenger Ship Technology, “European shipyards have more experience and resources than Chinese shipyards in the field of ferry building.”
But he singled out several “great advantages” to choosing AVIC Weihai Shipyard, which he believes are the main reasons the shipyard was successful in winning the order. Primarily, that Finnish naval architect and ship design company Deltamarin, which has a close relationship with AVIC Weihai Shipyard, has designed Stena’s ferries.
Indeed, Mr Deng said “AVIC Weihai Shipyard focuses on high value-added and high-tech products such as ropax, roro ship and engineering ships and aims to be a first-class and international shipyard in this field. Because of the close relationship with Deltamarin, the size of the organisation and the methods they employ led to a highly technologically driven way of approaching design and delivery that we continue to sustain today.”
He added that with the strong support of Deltamarin, which has allowed the shipyard to learn from European good practice, “AVIC Weihai shipyard plans to be a leading Chinese shipyard in the roro ship and passenger shipbuilding market”.
Another important factor was that, as mentioned, the shipyard is managed by AVIC Ship, a subsidiary of AVIC International Holding Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corporation of China. There is no doubt that AVIC Weihai Shipyard can gain more resources and support from its mother company. “AVIC Ship is equipped and operating with a whole industrial chain in the ship industry. Its business scope covers trade, financing, design and engineering, construction, supply chain management, after-sales service and other fields,” said Mr Deng. He singled out how the company’s international approach and culture helped it to win the Stena contract.
Furthermore, AVIC Ship has an international marketing and sales team (it has six overseas representative offices in Germany, Greece, Norway, Turkey, the Middle East and Singapore), and is expanding into international markets with the support of its parent company AVIC International Holding Corporation, which has 166 offices in 66 countries.
A competitive price also worked in the shipyard’s favour. Mr Deng explained. “The benefits include a competitive price, but high-quality products compared with European shipyards. This means low opex and low capex for the owners.”
In addition to its relationship with Deltamarin, the shipyard has built strong links with other European resources for vessel construction, using German interior outfitter R&M for the Stena vessels. “This was very important as Chinese shipyards do not have the same experience as European companies for ferry interiors,” explained Mr Deng. R&M has a local branch in China, which is also beneficial.
Mr Deng said the shipyard would learn about interiors from R&M with the aim of managing this aspect themselves for a future ropax project.
The Stena vessels the shipyard is building are complex to construct and highly innovative. Explaining how the shipyard approached the project, Mr Deng explained that AVIC Ship has organised a dedicated technical research team and project management team to take care of the Stena project. “We have utilised all kinds of resources... to ensure smooth progress of project engineering, procurement, production management and quality controls.”
The yard has also developed its facilities for constructing the Stena ferries. A new plate welding production line has been in operation for almost a year to meet the high requirements of thin plate welding. Furthermore, its newly established workshop for modular cabin production will be ready for production in October. The unit cabin building method means the cabins can be prefabricated. AVIC Ship said it is the first Chinese shipyard to have such a facility.
Stena technical innovations
Explaining the technical innovations on the Stena newbuilds, Mr Deng said the efficient hull form and propulsion will have “very advanced” EEDI compared to the current IMO index requirement. These vessels will have heat recovery systems for engines and air conditioning plants, frequency control technology for shaft generators, bow thrusters, larger pumps and ventilation fans and will be equipped with energy efficient motors and LED lighting.
He added “These vessels are a ‘clean’ ship design and include the best environment friendly marine equipment”, such as USCG type-approved ballast water treatment plants for salt and fresh water service, a high performance bilge water treatment system of 5 ppm, a total waste management system including vacuum toilet system, food waste and dry waste handling system and sewage treatment plants that meet Baltic Sea special area discharge requirements. The ships will also use biodegradable oil and grease for lubricating and use an environmentally friendly antifouling system.
Mr Deng added “These ships will also be equipped with intelligent ship systems including an integrated automation system, integrated ship data network and ‘paperless’ one-man bridge.”
Two of the ferries will be LNG dual-fuelled, while the rest will be gas-ready. The first vessel to be LNG-fuelled will have its steel cut next year.
So successful is the design of the ferries, that the service speed power demand they will achieve will be 10% over what was required by Stena in the contract.
As well as the Stena ferries, AVIC will deliver a ropax ferry for Jiaodong Ferries for the sino-Korean route by the end of October 2018. “We gained more experience though this project too,” said Mr Deng. This newbuild was also under the dedicated project and technical management teams that AVIC Ship and AVIC Weihai Shipyard set up for the Stena project.
Mr Deng said the shipyard was currently in discussions for more ropax projects.
While many shipyards in China are interested in the European ferry market, Mr Deng warned it was a “severe challenge for a Chinese shipyard to build a ropax in line with European standards”.
He explained “The yards have to upgrade and think outside of the box, which means they need to change their operations management, building methods, culture, and way of thinking from the traditional ways. And the yards also need to focus on improving the capabilities of project management, technological innovation, marketing and lean manufacturing.”
The shipyard has its eyes on the cruise market too.
Mr Deng said “Cruise vessels are recognised as the pearl in the imperial crown of the shipbuilding industry, so there is no doubt we are interested in building cruise, however, we have to do it step-by-step.”