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HEAVY LIFT\\\ >> 14


traditional and renewable power


generation equipment, does not currently appear to be affected by Brexit. We are an island surrounded by sea and wind that can generate renewable energy and that won’t change aſter 29 March. In the project industry where


most cargo is produced by specialised companies, the UK is a net importer though the bigger picture for trade post-Brexit is less clear and will depend on the growth of the UK economy. However we at DFDS are confident that whatever the landscape,


Issue 2 2019 - Freight Business Journal


our services, product range and reputation will still provide the platform for growth, and that is underlined by this investment and other long term investments on the Immingham estate.


What is the competitive position now that


Immingham has


enhanced its capability? The geography of project ports is central to the decision on cargo movements and probably has the most influence. In the past Immingham handled projects where geared vessels or large road mobile cranes were employed.


Add to the enhanced dockside liſt our excellent location at the heart of Britain’s east coast with first class UK connections and we have a unique advantage over other ports particularly for wind turbine generation projects. Within a four-hour drive of the Humber ports our customers can reach 40 million people and 75% of the UK manufacturing facilities. The motorway infrastructure that links Immingham to the main arterial motorways of the UK is uncongested and free flowing, complementing the position of the port and favourable steaming


SAL has windmills on its mind


The sharp fall in oil prices of around a decade ago has leſt its mark on the heavyliſt shipping market. Despite the emergence of wind power as an alternative, it is still a case of too many ships chasing too few cargoes. Christian Hoffmann, head


of marketing and corporate communications at specialist operator SAL Heavyliſt says that the oil and gas market, once the mainstay of heavyliſt shipping, “is still very sluggish”. While there has been a little work involving construction of oil refineries, new business has otherwise been


windmills which have effectively swopped over with oil and gas as a revenue generator. However, margins in


windmills are relatively low compared with the halcyon days of the oil and gas business. Governments are heavily involved in the development of offshore wind farms and, mindful of the political consequences of runaway electricity prices, are pretty hardnosed in setting the prices paid to the wind generators for electricity. This in turn has led the wind farm operators to squeeze their


The long foundations, middle


‘transition’ pieces and the blades of the windmills all bring their own shipping and assembly challenges and vessels have to be adaptable enough to switch from carrying a foundation section vertically to a transition piece horizontally. Windmills are also becoming steadily bigger – they are now roughly twice as tall as those of ten years ago, says Hoffmann, topping out at around 167 metres tall, or 300m to the tip of the uppermost blade. From an engineering and


technical point of view there is no reason why they couldn’t become taller still, but the shipping operators would need to be able to keep pace as the number of vessels available that could carry such monster structures is currently limited – and any new ships would have a long lead time before taking to the water. SAL itself is pondering its


pretty non-existent for the past 2½ years, although Hoffmann does expect some tightening of the market in around 2021 or so. Oil prices would still need to rise a bit further from their current level of around $55 a barrel to perhaps $65 a barrel for the industry to gain the confidence it needs to start investing in major new projects again. A few geopolitical questions, such as US policy on ‘fracking’ would also need to be answered. However, wind power has


emerged as an important substitute business for the shipping industry. Indeed, says Hoffmann: “It’s not oil and gas that is putting butter on our bread these days – it’s wind power.” This has become a major area


for SAL, especially the transport and assembly of offshore


suppliers, including the shipping companies. The UK is a prime example of this, says Hoffmann. However, the movement and


erection of offshore windmills has proved to be a steady source of income for SAL, although the tight margins mean that it has had to sharpen its operations still further. Experience is key here; every job is a learning opportunity for both the shipping operator and the engineering firms that hire them and experience gained can be used to do things more effectively in future, by saving man- and engineering-hours,


along with


using or reusing material and equipment more effectively. Engineers also take more


account of the shipping and logistics elements in their project costings these days.


future vessel needs. It currently has a fleet of 20 ships but Hoffmann believes that around 25 might be the optimum size. What size and configuration the new vessels would be still needs to be decided. He adds: “We need to consider


whether we want to be a volume or a niche – a more technical – supplier.” Bigger ships might be possible, but any decision would need to be taken in close cooperation


with customers,


bearing in mind that an operator buys a ship not for today’s needs but those of ten years or more hence. While some segments of


the shipbuilding market have tightened, Hoffmann does not anticipate too many problems finding yards to build any new ships it might need. The company has up to now been


times to Scandinavia and mainland Europe.


For example


80% of UK wind farms and 60% of the European market can be reached within 12 hours steaming time of Immingham.


Are there other developments at Immingham? The heavy lift capacity crane is only one aspect of the exciting DFDS developments at the Port of Immingham. We have greatly increased our acreage at the port to handle bigger volumes and tailor storage to specific cargoes. Examples are our


supplied mainly by German yards, but Hoffmann notes that Asian and southern European yards build good quality ships too. Besides windmills, the marine


industry is a major customer for SAL, which moves cranes and ship loaders to ports all over the world, along with huge marine engines. Refineries for oil and gas are another source of business.


more efficient vehicle handling zones and a wind turbine park where a bespoke secure project storage and distribution facility was built on the terminal. For the past year we have been working with existing customers and attracting new ones to plan ahead of the end of March. Whatever the outcome, our customers need to be confident their shipments will enjoy the same expected flows and scheduled sailings DFDS is renowned for 24/7. DFDS is currently embarking on the most aggressive tonnage


But ultimately all future


business depends on the level of industrial investment and this has been relatively low lately. Perhaps US President’s Trump avowed intention to invest in infrastructure may kick-start the market, although the Jones Act does currently close of any domestic business to non-US carriers. Could that change in future? Anything is possible,


15


strategy in the industry, which includes the building of six mega ro-ro ferries which have the carrying capacity of 40% larger than any of the existing vessels.


The first vessel has


just been delivered to our Mediterranean operation and we are confident that the Immingham operation will see these vessels in the future and we are ready. Further down the line we


may consider a large lifting beam to allow even heavier cargo to be lifted using the two cranes.


if home-grown US carriers are unable to fully satisfy industry’s needs. The other challenge facing


SAL and all ship operators are the new IMO emission limits. Decisions will need to be taken on whether to fit scrubber systems or switch to more expensive, cleaner fuels; much depends on the price differential between the two.


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