Heavylift / Breakbulk
Prepared for changes
The market for heavylift shipping companies is in stormy seas at present. Chipolbrok is currently renewing part of its fleet. Christian Doepgen spoke to Zhou Jinglai and Radoslaw Chmielinski, the two chief executive officers of the Sino-Polish joint venture, about technical innovations and the market development.
Gentlemen, what was the change that caused you to react with the Chipolbrok Pacific and its sisterships?
The type of cargo in the market has been steadily changing since the end of the 1990s. We’ve been seeing fewer packed goods and more out-of-gauge and extremely heavy units. This was the reason for our change. Today we have cranes capable of lifting 640 t and are approaching the 700 t limit with our Pacific newbuildings. The cargo holds are almost more important, though, as they are able to take modules up to 50 m high; and the 135 m continuous weather deck also provides a lot of room for project cargo!
Are you focusing on anything special?
We cater to shippers’ demands. Their cargo could consist of a cable drum, offshore facilities for the oil and gas field or the petrochemical industry, wind farms or large vehicles – they simply expect us to have the requisite capacity today.
What is the current state of your fleet renewal programme?
The Nowowiejski will go into service before the end of March, the Chipolbrok Atlantic will follow in May, with the Paderewski then coming in July.
Why is the change from 640 t to 700 t lifting capacity important for the market?
It’s not so much the slight increase in lifting capacity that’s key; the new position of the cranes is more important. Earlier on, the equipment was placed amidships for tandem lifts. We changed to 640 t with two cranes on the port side with the Orkan class. Now we have three cranes, each capable of hoisting 350 t, on the port side. That guarantees us almost unlimited access for operations on deck and in all cargo holds. That is where the advantage lies. More safety during handling and lashing is another boon.
The overall capacity of the global heavylift fleet is declining steadily. Is there demand for new ships? How do you stand in terms of competition? Currently you’re ranked no. 7, aren’t you?
All our ships are deployed on our liner services between the Far East and North America (and in the opposite direction with the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Gulf), and they’ve replaced our oldest units. When it came to the design and order, we didn’t intend to change either our aim or our position in the global league, or our services. Heavylift ships are a question of definition. There are dozens of multipurpose ships on the world’s seven seas, and new ones are constantly joining them.
Are there any changes in your services?
We don’t have any plans at present, but we are watching the market. We have the flexibility for new routes and ports if required.
How is North America developing?
We’re actually very satisfied. Both partners have invested there. We have nothing against finding more cargo in Houston; but we have established a name for ourselves there.
What do you think of Drewry’s prediction that the market will not recover before the end of 2017?
We sincerely hope that Drewry is correct! Chipolbrok transported around 1.2 million t less in 2015 compared to 2014. In the second half of 2015, declining demand from the oil and gas industry, one of the key sectors, had a negative impact on the project business. Thanks to our 18 ships we feel well prepared for a market recovery – but the sooner the better.