Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mix & Match Ship Components With CREATE3S

Trade between European countries is rapidly increasing, great demands are being made on Europe’s transport infrastructure. The implications and costs associated with expanding road and rail capacity are well understood by politicians and the general public alike.

The only freight transport mode that has virtually unlimited potential for expansion, and which is considered environmentally friendly, is coastal shipping, hence the current EU focus on encouraging more cargo to move by water.

However, the increasing volumes of cargo being shipped over relatively short distances must be reconfigured via the shipping companies and ports. Larger ships are required and for them to be efficient, faster cargo handling concepts are needed.

Otherwise ships will end up spending more time in port than at sea.

Lo-lo container vessels have, so far, proved to be very cost effective, but over short distances, larger ships become less rather than more efficient. An example: a 350teu ship can round-trip in 48 hours between Holland and the UK, typically making the sea voyage at night and loading/ discharging during the day. Containers arriving in the morning can be on the road (or rail or barge) within hours, en route for consignees, while containers arriving at the port can be loaded and heading across the North Sea the same day.

But if you want to increase the size of a vessel beyond 350/400teu, you have to make a major jump in size, say to 800teu, so that you can use two cranes and achieve similar turnround times to the smaller ships. However, the turnround times are lengthy in relation to time spent at sea and containers are still being handled one at a time.

Reducing dramatically the time a ship spends in port has become a challenge for all SS carriers, so Samskip has decided to take the lead co-ordination role in developing the Create3S concept. Create3S is an acronym for Creative concepts REalised by Advanced design and production to improve Total Efficiency of new-generation Short Sea Shipping.

The three-year project, which started on 1 November 2006, has a budget of €4.2m (US$5.5m) and EU funding amounting to €2.5m ($3.3m) has been secured.

This concept envisages a vessel consisting of two principal modules: a ship hull, including machinery and accommodation, and a cargo-carrying unit. It is intended that the cargo-carrying unit, which in the case of containers might be considered as a giant pallet, could also be designed to carry dry bulk and liquid cargo.

When the vessel arrives in port, it will be possible to separate quickly the cargo module from the ship section, placing it on the quay.

The ship module is then mated with a new cargo module for the return voyage.

In this way, time in port for the more expensive component - the ship module with its crew, machinery and bridge/navigation systems - will be minimized.

The cargo unit can then be unloaded and made ready for the next vessel call.

This approach will combine the ability of a "standard" ship design to be tuned to very different trades and commodities, while using advanced construction techniques such as the industrial pre-fabrication of large standardised components. This is expected to reduce both operational and manufacturing costs and could see production lead times trimmed by about 10%.

The most revolutionary feature of Create3S is the potential to transfer the complete cargo load in just one move. However, for certain vessel applications, it is possible that there may be more than one cargo module - for example, in the case of bulk liquids, more than one commodity may be moving on the same vessel, or it may even be practical to mix bulk and container modules on the same sailing.

The key feature remains that the individual cargo unit being discharged in one move will be far bigger than today, where the maximum size unit is typically a 45ft container or 20ft ISO tank. It is intended that the Create3S modular concept could be applied to a variety of cargo types, such as intermodal load units (containers), dry bulk and liquids, including petroleum products, chemicals and liquefied gas.

Safety and sustainability are also being investigated and accommodated through a comprehensive risk assessment and integration of solutions which facilitate reduced energy consumption, emissions and waste. The new generation vessels will be assessed on their operational and ecological performance in relation to total cost of ownership (including production cost) using advanced design and exploiting simulation techniques.
Frankly speaking, this could be the most innovative concept to hit the shipping industry since the shipping container was created. Wonder what the author of The Box, Marc Levinson would say? What do you say? Can this be created? Will it work? How will the very evironmentally aware EU react? Samskip is taking the lead...who will follow?


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