New ship design promises banana shippers more capacity, faster loading

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New ship design promises banana shippers more capacity, faster loading

A new design for a refrigerated ship built for banana shipments and roll-on/roll-off cargo promises more capacity, faster loading and unloading, and better fuel efficiency than its counterparts, its designer says.

The new type of vessel, which would handle auto cargo for the head haul from Northwest Europe to Central America, could help the industry grapple with an aging specialized reefer fleet, particularly in the banana trade, and few new-builds on the order books. The vessels could also give relief to short window for loading and discharing cargo, resulting from longer transit times caused by slow-steaming.

The Reefer RoRo vessel is “purpose built” for banana shippers, allowing them to “remain in control of their vital supply chain,” specifically for the Central America-Northwest Europe trade lane, said Birger Lindberg Skov, managing director of Reefer Intel AG, last week at JOC’s 13th annual TPM Conference in Long Beach, California. Skov conceived the design with partners Stena RoRo AB, naval architecture firm Knud E. Hansen A/S, TTS Port Equipment AB and Johnson Controls System AB.

“The Reefer RoRo can load about 1,000 passenger cars, trucks and/or special vehicles as well as general industry project cargo,” Skov said.

There’s enough demand to fill the vessel to capacity with vehicles bound for Central America at least twice per week, with bananas making up the majority of backhaul cargo from Central America. The Reefer RoRo, which  would have 50 percent more capacity than a specialized reefer vessels, could also load and discharge cargo in 15 hours, compared to the 40-hour turnaround time achieved by other specialized reefer ships, he sad.

The Reefer RoRo cold slow-steam at a speed of only 16 knots within its current four-week schedule, which would save a considerable amount of fuel. The four-week schedule would initate in Moin, Costa Rica or Santa Maria, Colombia, and discharge in Antwerp, with the return from Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Moin.

Another feature of the Reefer RoRo is the cassette system used to shuttle pallets and other types of breakbulk cargo on and off the vessel, which is a much more efficient method to handle cargo compared to the traditional means of loading and unloading specialized reefers and other vessels. For banana shipments, special cassettes that allow for the continuous circulation of chilled air are used. Twenty pallets containing 54 banana boxes each can be stowed on one cassette. The cassettes are block stowed in the vessel’s hold, enhancing safety and preventing cargo from shifting during the voyage.

Altogether, the Reefer RoRo can load 12,500 high cube pallets each carrying 54 boxes for a total of 675,000 banana boxes. The vessel’s cargo is divided up with 55 percent positioned on cassettes on the four inside refrigerated cargo decks, and 45 percent in refrigerated containers on the weather deck.

“Let me be straight, there is only one reason these ships will be built, and that is the cost reduction compared to the competitors’ vessels,” Skov said. “This vessel has a cost reduction of about one U.S. dollar to $1.25 per banana carton, equivalent to an overall price reduction of roughly 35 percent. Four Reefer RoRo vessels can contribute to a yearly cost reduction of about $45 million directly to the bottom line.”

The first Reefer RoRo debuted in September 2013. Since then, Skov and his colleagues have worked on developing a newer Reefer RoRo, version II.

Article from written by Lara L. Sowinski