LNG retrofitting is a technical challenge
LNG is regarded as a fuel of the future, since it reduces the pollutant emissions of ships by up to 99 per cent. The retrofitting of the WES Amelie is financially supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport. The feeder ship is one of 23 cargo vessels that are almost identical in structure, meaning that the expertise gained from the project could be directly implemented elsewhere. The project presents a technical challenge, as a complex system has to be integrated into an existing ship for it to be able to run on LNG fuel.
Paving the way for the transformation of Bremerhaven’s shipbuilding industry
The project serves as an example of how Bremerhaven’s shipbuilding industry is undergoing transformation. The SSW 1000 on which the WES Amelie was based was originally developed in Bremerhaven. In its day, the SSW 1000 was considered the most efficient ship within its class. New builds of this kind are no longer manufactured in Germany, but as one of the leading specialists in retrofitting, repair and conversion, GDD is now ensuring that Bremerhaven’s shipbuilding tradition is kept alive.
Low-cost suppliers are driving down prices
Försterling points out that ship repair is very much a price-driven business: “Shipyards in low-cost countries are clearly at an advantage in this regard.” It is therefore critical for GDD to provide an optimal level of service in order to remain internationally competitive. He can’t reduce his employees’ hourly rates, so the work has to be so well prepared in advance that it can be finished seamlessly in the shortest amount of time.
Winning points for perfect service
For years now, GDD has operated by the principle that, for every order, the customer always has a single point of contact with whom to discuss everything from the initial outlines of the project to the billing for its completion. This experience is now set to stand the business in good stead: “In upcoming international projects, it is primarily Bremerhaven that will take on the role of coordinator across the multiple locations,” explains Försterling. He is convinced that by combining the technical expertise of his workforce with a successful project management system, German Dry Docks will be able to resist the pricing pressure from low-cost suppliers when competing in international markets. “There are good prospects in combining optimum price with optimum quality.”
Future developments will include self-sailing ships
Conceptually, Försterling is already one step ahead. “The shipping industry hasn’t undergone a technical revolution in decades,” he notes. Transformations such as the switch from steam engines to internal combustion engines occurred over long periods of time. Now, though, serious changes are on the horizon: “In just a few years, we will have ships that sail by themselves, for example.” Försterling therefore feels it is necessary to reorient the focus of Bremerhaven as a location for shipbuilding and repair, and not just due to the current situation in the industry. “If we want to stay on the market in the long term, we have to set a new course in good time.”
Find out more about the maritime economy and logistics in Bremen.