China’s AVIC Weihai has its sights set on winning more international ferry newbuild orders, with the ultimate goal of entering the cruise shipbuilding market
China’s AVIC Weihai shipyard, one of the yards under the AVIC Ship brand, has high hopes. After winning a bid to construct eight ropax ships, with four optional vessels, for Stena - the shipyard’s first ever ferry order – it now aims to become a “first class, international” shipyard within the ropax sector.
The shipyard is justifiably proud of this order, part.ly because “European shipyards have more experience and resources than Chinese shipyards in the field of ferry building,” explained AVIC Weihai Shipyard vice president Eric Deng.
Mr Deng singled out several “great advantages” to choosing AVIC Weihai Shipyard, which he ascribes to the yard’s success in winning the order. Primarily, Mr Deng acknowledges the importance of his yard’s close relationship with Finnish naval architect and ship design company Deltamarin, which has designed Stena’s ferries.
Further, he said: “The close relationship with Deltamarin, the size of the organisation and the methods it employs, led [us towards] to a highly technologically approach to design and delivery, which we continue to sustain today.”
He added that with the strong support of Deltamarin, which has allowed the shipyard to learn from European good practice, “AVIC Weihai shipyard plans to be a leading Chinese shipyard in the roro ship and passenger shipbuilding market”.
Eric Deng (AVIC Weihai Shipyard): “It is a severe challenge for a Chinese shipyard to build a ropax in line with European standards”
Another important factor noted by Mr Deng in regard to the Stena order was the fact that the shipyard is managed by AVIC Ship, a subsidiary of AVIC International Holding Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
“[Our] benefits include a competitive price and high-quality products compared with European shipyards. This means low opex and low capex for owners”
There is no doubt that AVIC Weihai Shipyard will have resources and support from its parent company. “AVIC Ship is equipped and operating with a whole industrial chain in the ship industry,” said Mr Deng. “Its business scope covers trade, financing, design and engineering, construction, supply chain management, after-sales service and other fields,” he added, pointing out that the company’s international approach and culture helped it to win the Stena contract.
Furthermore, AVIC Ship has an international marketing and sales team (it has six overseas representative offices in Germany, Greece, Norway, Turkey, the Middle East and Singapore), and is expanding into international markets with the support of its parent company AVIC International Holding Corporation, which has 166 offices in 66 countries.
A competitive price also worked in the shipyard’s favour, as Mr Deng explained: “[Our] benefits include a competitive price, but high-quality products compared with European shipyards. This means low opex and low capex for the owners.”
In addition to its relationship with Deltamarin, the shipyard has built strong links with other European resources for vessel construction, using German interior outfitter R&M for the Stena vessels. “This was very important, as Chinese shipyards do not have the same experience as European companies for ferry interiors,” explained Mr Deng. R&M has a local branch in China, which is also beneficial.
Mr Deng said the shipyard would learn about interiors from R&M, with the aim of managing this aspect themselves for a future ropax project.
The Stena vessels being built by the shipyard are complex to construct and highly innovative. Explaining the yard’s approach to the project, Mr Deng said that AVIC Ship has organised a dedicated technical research team and project management team to look after the Stena project: “We have utilised all kinds of resources to ensure the smooth progress of project engineering, procurement, production management and quality controls.”
The yard has also developed its facilities specifically for the new project. A new plate welding production line has been in operation for almost a year to meet the high requirements of thin plate welding. A newly established workshop for modular cabin production has been built and the unit cabin building method means cabins can be prefabricated. AVIC Ship said it is the first Chinese shipyard to have such a facility.
AVIC’s Jiodong newbuilding has given the shipyard valuable experience of ropax ferries (credit: AVIC Ship)
Explaining the technical innovations on the Stena newbuilds, Mr Deng said the efficient hull form and propulsion will have “very advanced” EEDI compared to the current IMO index requirement. These vessels will have heat recovery systems for engines and air conditioning plants, frequency control technology for shaft generators, bow thrusters, larger pumps and ventilation fans and will be equipped with energy efficient motors and LED lighting.
He added: “These vessels are a ‘clean’ ship design and include the best environment friendly marine equipment”. This includes US Coast Guard type-approved ballast water treatment plants for salt and fresh water service, a high-performance bilge water treatment system of 5 ppm, a total waste management system including vacuum toilet system, food waste and dry waste handling systems and sewage treatment plants that meet Baltic Sea special area discharge requirements. The ships will also use biodegradable oil and grease for lubrication and employ an environmentally friendly antifouling system.
Mr Deng added: “These ships will also be equipped with intelligent ship systems, including an integrated automation system, integrated ship data network and ‘paperless’ one-man bridge.”
Two of the ferries will be LNG dual-fuelled, while the rest will be gas-ready. The first vessel to be LNG-fuelled will have its steel cut next year.
The design of the ferries allows a service speed power demand 10% above that specified by Stena in the contract.
As well as the Stena ferries, AVIC is putting the finishing touches to a ropax ferry for Jiaodong Ferries for the sino-Korean route, which provided the yard with more experience in this field, according to Mr Deng. This newbuild was also under the dedicated project and technical management teams that AVIC Ship and AVIC Weihai Shipyard set up for the Stena project.
Mr Deng said the shipyard was currently in discussions for more ropax projects.
While many shipyards in China are interested in the European ferry market, Mr Deng conceded it was a “severe challenge for a Chinese shipyard to build a ropax in line with European standards”.
He explained: “The yards have to upgrade and think outside the box, which means they need to change their operations management, building methods, culture, and way of thinking from the traditional ways. And the yards also need to focus on improving the capabilities of project management, technological innovation, marketing and lean manufacturing.”
If all goes to plan, Mr Deng said the yard will build on its success to enter the cruise market at some future point: “Cruise vessels are recognised as the pearl in the imperial crown of the shipbuilding industry, so there is no doubt we are interested in building cruise; however, we have to do it step-by-step.”