Samuel de Champlain
GIE Dragages Ports
TSHD Samuel de Champlain – named for the French explorer and so-called Father of New France – is the first dredger in Europe, perhaps the world, to undergo a conversion to dual fuel, LNG and MGO, engines. And Damen Shiprepair Dunkerque has been honoured to deliver it.
The story began when vessel owner, GIE Dragages Ports, decided it was time to equip the dredger with new engines. GIE Dragages Ports is an economic interest group created in 1979 to optimise the cost of dredging in six key ports serving the French Atlantic Coast, plus Marseille on the Mediterranean. The organisation is 98% state owned, with the remaining 2% split between the seven Grand Ports Maritimes – Dunkerque, Le Havre, Rouen, Nantes-Saint Nazaire, La Rochelle, Bordeaux and Marseille. Headquartered in Rouen, GIE Dragages Ports owns and manages a fleet of seven dredgers, ranging from the 52-metre La Maqueline to the 117-metre Samuel de Champlain.
An eye on sustainability
With an eye on increasing the sustainability of their operations, GIE Dragages Ports considered LNG propulsion. During the analysis they discovered that such a project might be eligible for European Union funding under the Motorways of the Sea programme.
Eligibility for such funding is based on membership of a relevant, cross-EU state consortium. This was no problem for GIE Dragages Ports, which already had close links with a number of interested parties – such as the ports of Nantes-Saint-Nazaire, Le Havre and Rouen in France, and Vigo and Gijon in Spain. Both the Spanish ports had already made good headway into preparing for the introduction of LNG – Vigo with the design of a floating bunkering system and Gijon with a design for a terrestrial bunkering device.
The right yard for the job
The consortium’s bid was a success; attracting the crucial 50% EU funding that would make the conversion of the Samuel de Champlain possible. From here, it was simply a case of finding the right yard for the job. Jean-Pierre Guellec, CEO of GIE Dragages Ports takes up the story.
“We put the job out to public tender, for which we had four criteria: 1. Price, 2. Technical capacity, 3. Maintenance options after project completion and 4. Conversion duration. Weighing all these considerations up, Damen’s offer was the best.”
And thus, the project began.
Damen’s scope is the provision of a turnkey package that features engineering, procurement, execution and maintenance support – which will be ongoing for eight years following completion of the conversion. As well as changing the dredger’s three MGO engines for LNG dual fuel alternatives, the contract has involved installing two LNG storage tanks on the vessel’s main decks. It also involves the upgrading of the electrical distribution, command and security systems and the modification of machinery spaces and the cooling system, and various piping works.
Rising to the challenge
The work has not been without its challenges. “As we considered the engines we wanted to use, we decided to go with MAN 6L35/44DF. These were brand new – almost prototypes you might say, but they seemed to be the most promising and offered the required capabilities. They were, however, considerably larger – and heavier – than those they would replace.”
This required nothing less than rebuilding an entire section of the ship. Damen started this in April 2018 with the prefabrication of the double walled engine room section in its Dunkerque workshop. With the engines installed on the section, the complete module was ready for exchange with the ‘old engine room’ after arrival of the Samuel de Champlain in early October. This sounds like a simple process, however it was a large job requiring significant cabling and piping work and the installation of auxiliary equipment, all within a tight timeframe.
A further challenge was the necessary installation of the two LNG storage tanks on the vessel’s main deck. “Each of the tanks weighs 110 tonnes when empty. They each have a capacity of 153 m3. Installation required considerable modification of the hopper deck and two internal structures of 20 tonnes each in order for it to support the weight.”
A large scale project then, to say the least, but one that will, in time, prove beneficial for both the operators and the environment.
Clean & cost-efficient
“As this is the first time this has been done on a dredger, we will need to wait until she is operational again to accurately measure the fuel savings, but we have a targeted reduction in fuel cost of 20%. LNG engines require significantly less maintenance, so we will save money and increase uptime there, too.”
Though the Samuel de Champlain retains her ability to sail on MGO fuel, Jean-Pierre explains that this is largely for purposes of redundancy. “We expect that the dredger will operate on LNG possibly all of the time. The principle benefit of this is a significant reduction in emissions.”
Even before work on the Samuel de Champlain commenced, GIE Dragages Ports ordered a specialised consulting company to measure emissions parameters on the exhaust pipes of the ship. These measurements, compared to new ones after conversion, will help to assess the environmental benefit of the conversion, in association with the relevant authorities – those who will be responsible for monitoring the emissions output in the Loire and Seine regions where the dredger operates.
“We anticipate the conversion will result in 99% particulate, 100% SOX, 80% NOX and 20% CO2 reductions, comfortably enough to offset the increase in methane that goes with LNG propulsion.”
Quiet & comfortable
The environmental benefits of LNG conversion don’t end with emissions, however; underwater noise is also expected to be lowered.
“On the test bed the engines are practically silent,” states Jean-Pierre. “And vibration is significantly less too. The benefits of this are widespread. It will provide a more pleasant working environment for the crew, equaling less fatigue, it will mean operations are less detrimental to marine life and it will make life more pleasant for our neighbours.
“I am looking forward to being able to measure the exact noise and vibration reduction once the dredger is back in action, but I am confident that Samuel de Champlain shall be ready not only for the regulations of today, but also for those of tomorrow.”
A test case
So, does Jean-Pierre see scope for further LNG conversions of this sort in the future?
“I think the Samuel de Champlain will serve as a test case. Once she is operational again we will see for sure just how much fuel costs, emissions and noise & vibration are reduced. Using this information we will be able to measure the effect such conversions would have if applied to all vessels operating in the region and assess the case for the future.”