DISCOVER Magazine #6

Hard pull for Svitzer Ramsey

Published in category: Harbour & Terminal
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Oranjewerf Ship Repair

“It looked straightforward,” says Owen Morgan, Technical Manager for multinational towage operator Svitzer: “Three of our tugs were to go into the Oranjewerf Ship Repair yard in Amsterdam, each of the dockings taking two weeks with a few days break between.”

That was the plan. “It didn’t work out that way, the first and newest of the vessels turned out to be a nightmare,” he explains. Inherited from Milford Haven where the 32m tug had been shepherding the big tankers and gas ships into place, the seven-year-old Svitzer Ramsey had recently moved over to a Sheerness base in order to take up a similar role for the containerships transiting the London Gateway terminals.

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Knowing there had been a few issues with the forward winch, Mr Morgan had been expecting that the 80 tonnes capacity unit would need to be stripped down and the bearings replaced before it was put back together again. Inspection by the Oranjewerf team told a very different story: the main winch shaft was so damaged “there was no alternative but to replace it” says Mr Morgan. “It was a bit of a shock.”

Oranjewerf Ship Repair is capable of manufacturing many components but unfortunately, a 5.5m long, 300mm diameter winch shaft was little large for the available technology, so it was necessary to find another source. “The shipyard has the skill set and machinery to do most things, but if there’s something it can’t take on, the team will do everything they can to link you up with someone who can,” says Mr Morgan. There were more complications: “One of the biggest issues was actually sourcing the material, it is very hard to get that particular type of high grade nickel chromium steel through your average steel merchant at short notice,” he explains. Again the yard and owners worked together to solve the issues, finally locating a company in the south-west of the Netherlands that was able to manufacture the replacement shaft.

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Then, to add to the troubles, another problem arose. “The survey of the Azimuth thrusters showed broken teeth on one gear wheel and a large break in the case hardening of the other, so both units had to come out.”

Of course all of this had an impact on the schedule, “Put under this kind of pressure, the yard did everything it could to raise the level of activity and maximise the man hours; they had people working evenings and weekends too…” In fact as the task coincided with one of those rare spells of beautiful summer sunshine, having to ask workers to voluntarily give up leisure time was quite a tough call, and Mr Morgan admits there were moments where one or two of the team were caught wistfully “gazing up at the blue sky”.

Despite the distractions, the shipyard pulled all their resources and got the shaft in, aligned it and replaced the gearing behind the thrusters before refitting them. Considering the unexpected nature of the work, it wasn’t surprising that the Svitzer Ramsey’s docking ran over time by about four weeks, but rather than get discouraged the yard kept up the pressure and energy, Mr Owen adds that “the enthusiasm of the team was invaluable”. He also goes on to say that where there are issues to negotiate, “the guys at Oranjewerf are willing to face you and talk it through”.

Happily, the other tugs didn’t pose so much of a challenge, and Mr Morgan says that seeing the floating dock being put through its paces with the last vessel to get into the yard was “a very refreshing experience”.

He explains the Felixstowe-based Svitzer Shotley, a Damen ASD Tug 2411, usually needs extra attention when it comes to sitting down in a conventional graving dock, “but the skills the dock master has in inclining the aft end of the floating facility so it’s at the same angle as the keel means that it’s a simple, efficient process –float in, pump out, and there she is”.

Oranjewerf Ship Repair in the port of Amsterdam gradually continues to extend its already versatile proposition to shipowners. With it, Oranjewerf’s scope of ship types and maritime segments served is extending too. As part of Damen Shiprepair & Conversion, the shipyard carries out repair, conversion and maintenance projects for vessels and craft from many corners of the maritime industry, featuring offshore and towage, shortsea, ferry shipping, fisheries and inland shipping. The repair and conversion shipyard has turned 65 in November 2014 and simultaneously celebrated its silver jubilee within Damen Shipyards Group.

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