Fincantieri explains the challenges involved in building and installing mid-sections for two Grimaldi vessels
Grimaldi is lengthening two ropax ferries to install more cabins, new public spaces, restaurants and an equipment room for installing batteries.
Grimaldi signed a letter of intent with Fincantieri in March 2018 for the shipyard’s ship repair and conversion division to lengthen and extensively refurbish cruise ferries Cruise Roma and Cruise Barcelona, built by the Italian yard in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
Prior to the lengthening, the vessels’ dimensions were 54,000 gt, 225 m length, 3,000 passengers with a 2,400 m2 car deck and 3,000 lane metres for heavy vehicles. Following the lengthening the preliminary main dimensions will become 63,000 gt, 254 m length, 3,500 passengers, 3,400 m2 car deck and 3,600 lane metres for heavy vehicles.
Working closely with the classification society RINA, Fincantieri prepared a feasibility study to address the complexities of this project and proposed a technical solution including a revised general arrangement plan to Grimaldi. Fincantieri vice president ship repair and conversion Andrew Toso pointed out that the design phase of such a lengthening project is comparable to that of a newbuild ship and the approval process with the classification society usually takes around one year. All the required classification approvals were obtained by Fincantieri and the ship repair and conversion division will kick off the project on Cruise Roma at its Palermo site during January 2019, with an approximate work schedule of 12 weeks. Completion of Cruise Roma will quickly be followed by the lengthening of Cruise Barcelona.
Commenting on these two particular lengthenings, Mr Toso said “The main reason is to increase passenger and vehicle carrying capacity, however in this case the ferry operator has also implemented a very environmentally friendly approach and shall dedicate some of the space created by the new mid-body section to install a bank of mega- lithium batteries. This will allow the vessels to have zero emissions in port as all of the electrical needs will be met by the batteries, which will then be recharged while the ships are at sea during cruising.” By using the batteries, which will total 5 MW of installed power, instead of the diesel generators, these ships will have zero emissions while in port. Mr Toso further explained that “due to space and weight the battery pack will be spilt into two, with one half in the battery room on the port side and the other in the room on the starboard side.” To complement the mega-lithium battery, the works also include installing a scrubber system for exhaust gas cleaning.
The lengthening work will involve constructing two 28-m long mid-body sections which will be fitted to the ropax ferries, giving an additional 600 lane metres of roro space for heavy vehicles, and 20 additional cabins on each ferry. Two new seating areas will be added to each vessel, with an increase of 500 seats, also a new family-orientated self-service restaurant will be created with seating for about 270, which will also comprise a space for children to play. Fincantieri will also create a movable partition in the existing restaurants to provide Grimaldi with the option of using part of the space for a specialty restaurant. The new mid-body section will provide additional deck space, extending the existing sun deck by about 600 m2.
In order to cut down on the time the vessels have to remain out of service at the shipyard, the mid-body section of about 1,700 tonnes of steel and another 600 tonnes of outfitting is being prefabricated and assembled prior to the vessel arriving at the facility. Mr Toso explained “The idea is to pre-outfit the new section as much as possible.” He described how the installation of the new section shall be carried out: The aft section (as this is the heaviest part) of the vessel will remain stationary on traditional dock blocks while the forward section will be laid on special movable blocks called skid shoes. These skid shoes can be moved forward using hydraulic cylinders to create the space for inserting the new mid-body section. Separately, the mid-body section will be mounted on a specially prepared self-propelled modular transport system.
“These multi-wheel systems can move a huge amount in terms of weight and will be able to insert the new section in a very precise way within the gap created in the existing vessel so that we can then start the welding process,” said Mr Toso.
Outfitting in all ship areas in the way of the cutting line has to be removed, to create a clear and safe space around the hot work required to first cut the existing steel structure, and then to weld the new section. A week to 10 days before the vessel arrives in the shipyard, Fincantieri will assemble teams on board to prepare the vessel for cutting. These teams will prepare the area around the cutting line (4-5 m across cutting line) and “remove the panels, the floors, the ceilings, remove everything and then mark all the cables and pipes as all of them will have to be cut”. The complexity of this job was emphasised as Mr Toso added “We are talking 1,200 cables that have to be marked and cut and then reconnected correctly again”
“Building extra cabins and public spaces has a big impact on all the systems that feed the passenger areas and when it comes to cutting the vessel in two, we have to retest and recommission all systems and processes, so it is absolutely comparable to the newbuilding process.” He added “The ferries will perform sea trials like a newbuilding because from a stability and manoeuvrability viewpoint, it is like having a completely new vessel.” This project is particularly innovative because it is the first time that batteries and associated systems will be installed during a ship lengthening.
Backdrop of cruise extensions
Mr Toso singled out Fincantieri’s work in lengthening MSC’s Lirica-class in 2014-2015 as being an important backdrop to the project. It lengthened MSC Armonia, MSC Lirica, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Opera from 251 m to 275 m by adding a prefabricated mid-section. He further commented that “These were very complicated vessels to lengthen so our experience of the impact of lengthening on the performance of the vessel, including speed and fuel consumption, is very good.”
Fincantieri is therefore no stranger to vessel lengthening projects; the Grimaldi projects are the sixth and seventh such project carried out by Fincantieri during the last five years. Over the past 30 years, it has in fact carried out 32 vessel lengthenings across ferries, cruise ships and barges. The most recent project was lengthening Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit in March this year.
Fincantieri believes that ship lengthening as a means of increasing passenger capacity and internal space has become an industry trend. Mr Toso noted that “Since MSC, we have received a lot of requests from other companies for feasibility studies – the cruise industry is very interested in this option. I hope we get the same feedback from the ferry industry. Indeed, we expect good feedback.”
There are several reasons which may motivate a shipowner to lengthen a vessel and these can generally be separated into technical and commercial considerations, or frequently, a mix of both. Mr Toso explained that commercially, the additional payload (passengers/cargo), limited investment and short project turnaround required for the redelivery of a lengthened vessel are of major relevance. Technically, the vessel’s improved performance and life-extension achieved are usually the most relevant.
Andrew Toso (Fincantieri)
Mr Toso attended the Italian Naval academy and worked as a technical officer within the Italian Navy. Following the completion of studies in naval architecture, he worked in Saipem SpA as field engineer on board Saipem 7000 managing offshore projects in the North Sea and in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2009 he started work with Fincantieri in the basic design department; in 2010 he became responsible for the technical department of the ship repair and conversion division. He has also assumed the role of project manager of MSC Cruises’ Renaissance project and, in 2017 he became vice president of Fincantieri Services ship repair and conversion.