Indian builder raises its game with multipurpose coaster

by | 7th June 2024 | Commercial Shipping, The Naval Architect - News

Home News Indian builder raises its game with multipurpose coaster

The High Cube 8500 design to be built by Chowgule at Mangalore. Source: Conoship

The Chowgule Group, a leading supplier of dry cargo vessels to the European coastal and short-sea trading community, set to be bolstered through acquisition of another Indian yard, writes David Tinsley

Since breaking into the export market nearly 20 years ago with a 12-ship coaster deal from northern Europe, the shipbuilding division of Indian mining and industrial group Chowgule has consistently raised its game in the production of short-sea dry cargo vessel tonnage.

The company’s standing in the sector today is notable not only for the volume of work in hand to European account, but also for the extent to which the orderbook features vessels incorporating diesel-electric or hybrid propulsion systems.

Moreover, the recent acquisition of the former New Mangalore Shipyard has substantially increased Chowgule & Co’s business reach beyond that afforded by its Loutolim and Rassaim facilities in Goa, which can construct vessels up to around 7,000dwt. The investment has been quickly endorsed by a contract from Germany for a series of 8,500dwt short-sea traders.

Over the past two decades, Chowgule’s Goa output has included over 50 European-designed dry cargo vessels for interests in the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the UK, and the orderbook there stretches into 2027. The investment at Mangaluru (Mangalore) is intended to take Chowgule into a new league, by making the yard an internationally competitive supplier of vessels in the 7,000-25,000dwt range, including larger classes of coastal and intra-regional trader.


A new generation of green coasters

Starting with a long run of 4,500dwt multi-purpose cargo ships, and progressing through the production of various designs of ‘maids-of-all-work’ in the 4,200-5,650dwt range developed in conjunction with Conoship International, Chowgule signalled its shift towards the higher added-value segment of the short-sea category by securing contracts for a new class of 5,400dwt coasters featuring a hybrid power setup. The entire series of 12 vessels was ordered in three tranches, the initial six-ship commitment having been made by Finnish dry bulk specialist ESL Shipping through its Swedish subsidiary AtoB@C Shipping in September 2021.

Dubbed the Green Coaster generation, the design and model testing were undertaken in conjunction with the Dutch company SMB Naval Architects & Consultants. The versatile vessel type employs a fuel-flexible Yanmar diesel main engine, complemented by a Corvus battery pack of nearly 1MWh enabling fuel-saving, zero-emission port stays, manoeuvring and peak shaving.

First-of-class Electramar was completed in December 2023. The 90m design is suited to the transportation of manifold bulk goods and breakbulk products, with trading flexibility enhanced by movable bulkheads in the single box-like hold, and by strengthening to Finnish/Swedish ice class 1A standard and for loading and discharge aground at tidal berths. The forward arrangement of bridge and accommodation has optimised the hull envelope for revenue-earning, and creates a long, unobstructed deck which allows for more weatherdeck-borne cargo and longer items of project freight.

In the ship’s configuration, the nature of the powering arrangements and compactness of the machinery spaces is claimed to yield up to 20% more cargo capacity and to cut CO2 emissions per cargo unit by as much as 50% relative to coasters of similar size.

The Yanmar medium-speed engine’s nominal maximum output of 1,920kW meets the requirement for the modest laden speeds that typify the coastal and short-sea traffic. Besides mainstay low-sulphur fuel, the machinery is also able to burn various renewable fuels or diesel blends such as the 0.1 Co-processed low-emission marine fuel produced at Neste’s Porvoo refinery in Finland.

The new vessels are currently exempt from the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) and EU emissions trading regulatory requirements due to the design’s gross tonnage measurement (4,200t) lying below the 5,000gt threshold. Nonetheless, and for the benefit of customers as well as the company’s own oversight and planning, the Swedish operator has established an internal reporting system to calculate emissions and CII rating for each Green Coaster. Deliveries of the final units in the programme are anticipated by 2026.

Parallel production of a series of diesel-electric coasters booked by Vertom Group of the Netherlands has been implemented at the Goa yards. The contract encompasses 12 newbuilds of 5,600dwt, accounting for delivery slots as far ahead as 2029, using a custom-made design developed in conjunction with Groot Ship Design and conceived in line with a fleet renewal strategy intended to put Vertom on the path towards eventual decarbonisation.

The ships from India will share the same platform and makers’ list as the 7,300dwt Labrax-type newbuilds in production for Vertom on home ground at the Kampen site of Thecla Bodewes (TB) Shipyards. While the 5,600dwt ships from India will be shorter at 99m, relative to the 118.6m of the Dutch-built 7,300-tonners, the beam will be the same, at 14.3m. Respective gross measurements are 3,840gt and 4,750gt.

The same distributed diesel-electric power and propulsion concept will be adopted in the Indian series. Each of the latter has been specified with four main generators, rated at 405kW apiece, feeding two 650kW propulsion motors and a 400kW bow thruster. It is anticipated that the 10knot design service speed, on a full-load draught and at a shaft power of 920kW, will be achieved using three generators, leaving the fourth as the standby unit or to meet particular sea conditions.

The power arrangements have been conceived in mind of future technological opportunities and the progression towards ever-lower environmental impact, by offering possibilities for adaptation to methanol-electric or hydrogen-electric propulsion.

The vessels will embody a single hold of 260,000ft3 (7,362m3) volume compared to the significantly larger capacity – 329,500ft3 (9,330m3) – encapsulated by the two-hold ships from Thecla Bodewes. In both cases, added hydrodynamic efficiency and improved seakeeping in heavy weather are imbued through the Groot Cross Bow configuration.

Adopting the same design platform and elements as the Dutch-built series, five of which are already in service, has provided Chowgule with reliable insights and information in advance, contributing to the efficiency of the build process. This approach also promises future fleet technical management benefits for Vertom, engendering greater uniformity in equipment and operation.


Dutch/German diesel-electric series

Through the contract sealed last November spanning four 8,500dwt diesel-electric cargo vessels, Boomsa Shipping of the Netherlands and Germany’s Leonhardt & Blumberg have become the launch customers for Chowgule’s recently acquired and renovated shipyard at Mangaluru (Mangalore). Deliveries to the Dutch/German partnership are scheduled to get under way in the autumn of 2025, and options attached to the order hold out the possibility of an eventual eight-ship series.

The low-emission design has been developed in cooperation with Groningen-headquartered Conoship, and the Dutch imprint on the project is all the greater for the brokerage role played by the JR Shipping Group. The Rotterdam company NewTide Chartering, an affiliate of Boomsa, will be responsible for the commercial management of all the vessels, which will form the High Cube 8500 flotilla.

Employing a forward bridge and accommodation arrangement, the new breed’s High Cube designation reflects the 13,900m3 (approximately 491,000ft3) capacity in a single box-shaped hold, which will feature a portable, complete tweendeck. Open-top certification will give added cargo flexibility.

According to Conoship, the optimised diesel-electric system yields a reduction in the propulsion power requirement by 50-60% compared to existing tonnage, while the overall energy performance will be such as to cut CO2 emissions by at least 50% and potentially up to 90%. Long-term asset and trading value considerations are implicit in design preparation for wind-assisted propulsion (notably the eConowind solution), carbon capture, and emission-free operation on batteries so as to lower emissions even further.

Given the rapid growth in Indian container ports and terminals, and the country’s bid to stimulate greater use of coastal and river transportation, fostering a modal shift on efficiency and environmental grounds, Chowgule’s portfolio includes a class of small feeder ship developed together with Groot Ship Design. Offering an all-up payload of 106TEU, the river/sea container carrier in its first iteration introduced a shuttle service between Mormugao and Mumbai.

On a length overall of 67m, the vessel is arranged with the superstructure located forward, maximising use of the hull envelope and affording protection to the underdeck spaces for open-top operation. The central section incorporates two small holds, which can be closed with hatch covers, fore and aft of which are slots for boxes carried directly on the main deck. Self-sufficiency in cargo handling is assured by a pedestal-mounted Liebherr 30t crane amidships.

Obviating the need for a main engine room, and in keeping with design and maintenance simplicity objectives, a deck-mounted propulsion system has been adopted. The solution is based on two 294kW Volvo Penta diesels powering ZF rudder propellers, giving a fully-laden speed of about 8knots. A small machinery room is arranged in the foreship to accommodate two 168kW auxiliary gensets.

Boosting Chowgule production wherewithal this year at a time of evidently robust demand from the European market and potentially elsewhere, New Mangalore Shipyard was purchased following the bankruptcy of shipbuilder Bharati Defence & Infrastructure. The acquisition has been followed by a far-reaching upgrading programme at the 49acre facility.

Related Posts