Operating in extreme conditions. The challenges of the Arabian Gulf
Dick van der Linden
Commercial & Chartering Manager
Jawar Al Khaleej Shipping LLC
There are many places in the world where vessels and their crews face environmental challenges that seem a world away from the temperate if unpredictable conditions of Western Europe. There, Atlantic storms can and do inflict punishment on vessels and their crews, but these are relatively infrequent and usually pass through quickly. In the Middle East, and particularly the Arabian Gulf, environmental conditions are more fixed and require long-term solutions.
Heat and dust
“This is an area where air temperatures can reach 55° C and water temperatures 35° C,” says Dick van der Linden, Commercial & Chartering Manager at Dubai-based Jawar Al Khaleej Shipping LLC (JAK). “As well as making life difficult for the crew it can make cooling the engines a real challenge as they not only run hotter, but are also harder to cool due to the warm sea water and hot, humid, low-density air that we have, particularly in the summer.”
JAK is a leading provider of specialist services to the offshore oil and gas sector in the Arabian Gulf. Recent additions to its fleet include two Damen ASD Tugs 3213 and a Damen Fast Crew Supplier (FCS) 5009 for operations at the Al Basra (ABOT) and Khor Al Amaya (KAAOT) oil terminals. Between them, these facilities handle more than 90% of Iraq’s crude oil exports.
In the almost land-locked Arabian Gulf, another issue is the strong winds that often carry particulate matter including sand, dust and salt crystals. As well as abrading the exteriors of vessels, these will also affect the operation of machinery of all types if allowed to get inside a vessel, as well as have a negative impact on crew performance.
“Damen has worked with us on these issues and contributed a significant R&D effort,” said Dick. “For example, their work in recent years on the perfecting of box coolers has been of great assistance in increasing the efficiency and reducing maintenance of the engine cooling systems. With the new designs that sit flush with the hull, they have even improved fuel economy. Damen has also put a lot of thought into cooling and de-humidifying both the crew areas and the engine room. In addition to specifying high-quality air-conditioning systems for the vessels, in the engine room the inlets and outlets are carefully positioned for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. This also contributes to enhanced engine efficiency.”
To keep the dust and sand away from the ships’ systems and interiors, Damen specifies best-in-class filters to trap the matter before it enters the air-conditioning systems and can do any harm. This simple action makes a significant difference to the longevity and maintenance requirements of machinery and other equipment with moving parts.
Between a rock and a hard place
As well as atmospheric conditions that can be hostile to say the least, there are other, more practical, obstacles that need to be addressed by vessel operators and owners in the Middle East. One of these is the relative scarcity of repair and maintenance facilities around the Gulf, and the resulting large distances that vessels may have to travel to reach them. The failure of even a minor component can become very expensive to fix if it requires several days of downtime and a round trip of hundreds of miles to repair.
“We take our repair schedules very seriously indeed,” continues Dick, “and undertake preventative maintenance wherever possible to preempt any break-downs. We also carry rather more spares on board then similar vessels in Europe might do, and keep even more on hand at our shore facilities, as deliveries can take time.
“With our base in Dubai and our main centre of operations in Basra, last year we took delivery of a Damen Fast Crew Supply Vessel (FCS) 5009. This can cover the 550 nm between the two in around 24-hours and gives us autonomy in delivering parts, personnel and fuel from one to the other. This is much more efficient than the slower tugs making the trip south for minor works.”
Looking ahead, Dick sees new tools that will help Jawar Al Khaleej Shipping further mitigate the challenges that it faces. “We are currently evaluating Damen’s Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS),” he says. “This interactive software will bring all our maintenance monitoring, planning and scheduling within a single framework, greatly simplifying matters. If we combine this with remote monitoring technology, then our preventative maintenance programme will virtually run itself and give us great peace of mind.
“The economy here is certainly picking up,” he concludes. “We are very pleased with our current Damen vessels and hope to add to their number in the near future.”
Damen has been very responsive to the problems that operators such us ourselves encounter in the Middle East and have devised excellent solutions. Together we have made a good partnership.