Classification societies are more motivated than ever to attract
owner’s bulk carrier vessels to their fleets. Insights into the
improvement of fleet operational efficiency and the
understanding of regulations are among the carrots available to
owners willing to shop around.
The leading class societies contacted by DCI have all
increased their bulk carrier fleets measured by the number of
vessels or total tonnage over the last 12 months, despite the
global bulk carrier fleet not growing as quickly as forecast
because so many newbuilding orders were delayed or cancelled.
DNV, for example, had a grand total of 5,725 vessels, equal to
136.2m gt, in its fleet as of January this year. Bulk carriers and
dry cargo vessels represented a quarter of the total.
Although the number of bulk carriers in the DNV fleet has
been relatively at stable at around 1,200 over the past three
years, Michael Aasland, Business Director for bulk carriers, said
dry cargo tonnage had grown from 33.2 million gt in 2007 to
36.1 million gt at the end of 2010. “DNV’s orderbook is 14.6%
of the world fleet by dwt, as compared to DNV’s existing fleet
which is 7.1% by dwt,” he added. “This will lead to a natural
increase in the DNV classed fleet as these ships are delivered.”
As of 1 April 2010, the Bureau Veritas-classed fleet stood at
9,052 ships, comprising over 70m gt. 33.4% of the BV-classed
tonnage (gt) consisted of bulk carriers. “About one year ago the
percentage of bulk carriers was 31%,” said Gijsbert de Jong,
product manager for dry bulk carriers. “The increase can be
attributed to our large orderbook for bulk carriers.”
The Korean Register of Shipping (KR) — like DNV and BV, an
International Association of Classification Societies member
(IACS) — is able to draw on its close links with ship yards in
Korea and, increasingly, in China to attract most of its bulk
carrier tonnage. A total of 132 bulker newbuildings will be
constructed under KR class by 2013 and bulk carriers now make
up some 40% of KR’s total-classed fleet which recently exceeded
40m gt for the first time. KR said that the total of KR-classed
vessels owned by non-Korean shipowners amounted to around
27% at the end of last year but would reach 34% in 2015.
“The Korean Register has eight branch offices in China and
also a regional headquarters in Shanghai,’ said KRS. “The society
has established extremely strong links with the Chinese shipyards
and is very active in supervising newbuildings in this country.”
De Jong told DCI he was not surprised that the rate of
newbuilding deliveries had slowed. “You have to consider the
historical development of shipbuilding and consequently ship
delivery capacity,” he said. “It was quite clear that the amount of
ships scheduled for delivery was very high compared to previous
years, in which many yards were already operating at maximum
output capacity, even when considering increased yard capacity
coming on stream in 2009.
“In addition, due to the economic slowdown, owners became
much less keen on quick delivery of their new ships, which
initiated a round of agreements between shipyards and
shipowners for deferrals, order swaps — for example bulk
carrier to tanker — and in some cases cancellation.”
Aasland said the size of the newbuilding orderbook had been
a problem for the dry cargo sector even before the financial
crisis hit the industry. “The shipping crisis would have appeared
anyhow,” he explained. “At year-end 2008, seven more bulk
carriers were ordered or at the yards for every ten sailing bulk
“Overcapacity would have appeared independent of the
finance crisis. The number of cancellations — in this perspective
— could have been worse than they are and seems to be. We
expect more cancellations to come.”
BV continues to focus its research efforts on the structural
safety of bulk carriers. Most recently this saw the society carry
out an in depth analysis of the ‘local’ structural strength of
bulkers in relation to allowable hold mass curves.
The allowable hold mass curves for vessels built after 1998
are mandatory in the loading manual and the loading instrument
as per IACS Unified Requirements S1A. But the majority of the
bulk carriers in service today were constructed before 1998 and
generally do not have allowable hold mass curves.
According to De Jong, pre-1998 bulk carriers engaged in
multi-port operations need to have allowable hold mass curves
to control the local strength of the cargo hold structure for the
envisaged loading conditions. A recent paper available from BV
explains a practical methodology to determine the hold mass
curves. Using the methodology, De Jong claimed, would enable
bulk carrier owners and managers to safely increase the loading
and operational flexibility of their fleet.
BV has also now developed a technical service to assist ship
owners and managers in the assessment of the compatibility of a
ship’s structural strength with intended soft grounding at
designated NAABSA (Not Always Afloat But Safely Aground)
berths. “A so-called NAABSA clause may be negotiated in a
charter party when the ship calls at ports where it is impossible
for the vessel to remain always afloat,” said De Jong. “For
example, due to low tide in a port where the seabed consists of
soft mud. A typical example of an area with many NAABSA
berths where bulk carriers are frequently loading cargoes is the
River Plate estuary.”
KR has also been highlighting bulk carrier safety, particular
the need to conduct strength analysis tests on vessels over
200,000dwt. “For bulk carriers of this size that have been sailing
for over 20 years, the shell thickness is often thinner than other
ships due to a high usage rate of HT Steel,” said KR. “We have
found significant damage in these types of vessels since 2000.
“During inspections, a structural strength analysis detected
many cracks found in double bottom girders and hatch corner
plates and, in recent inspections made in June 2009, cracks in the
side shell were also found.
“Therefore, the society has been emphasizing the need for a
structural strength analysis to be conducted over the entire ship.
The structural assessment should cover yield strength, buckling
strength and fatigue strength. Reinforcement and verification of
the results against acceptance criteria is suggested.”
KR helped develop IACS’s common structural rules (CSR) for
bulk carriers and in June will launch a new version of its
‘SeaTrust-CSR’ software for design houses and shipyards. “It
aims to support a more rapid structural design process, support
multiple windows operating systems, offer a user-friendly
interface and allow a design of data structure that is more easily
maintained,” said KR. “In addition, it will provide a more
comprehensive prescriptive rule check function.”
From a safety standpoint the introduction next year of the
International Maritime Safety Bulk Cargo (IMSBC) Code is
something of a milestone in bulk carrier operation.
Adopted by the IMO in December 2008, it becomes
mandatory on January 1 2011 when it replaces the voluntary BC
Code. It provides a comprehensive list of hazards related to the
shipment of bulk cargoes including a range of new cargoes that
do not feature in the BC Code.
“The Code in itself is of course important, but it is important
that all parties in our industry are aware of the issues,” said Mr
Aasland. “DNV has recently developed a new course aimed at
personnel in the Chartering and Operations departments,
covering the Dangerous Goods issues covered in the IMSBC