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Container ships: Off with the bulbous bows!

Denmark’s Maersk Line, the world’s largest container carrier, is removing the bulbous bows from a number of its container ships in a bid to cut fuel costs. Steffen Hartvig Nielsen, head of vessel optimisation at Maersk Maritime Technology, noted that the bows can weigh up to 140 tonnes and were originally fitted to ‘even out’ wave patterns created by a vessel’s hull to reduce propulsion requirements.

‘Large container vessels are typically designed for speeds of 25 knots, but with today’s slow steaming the bulbous bows are often out of shape and thus generate high levels of resistance,’ he observed. He added that ‘individual business cases’ are being developed for each Maersk vessel class by monitoring historic sailing pattern data to examine whether a replacement makes economic sense.

In some cases it does. China’s Qingdao Beihai Shipbuilding Heavy Industries has already started removing the bows on several Maersk vessels, with the process taking about 12 days and expected to create fuel savings of between one and two per cent. ‘With overall fuel consumption costing more than $7 billion across the shipping businesses, even a one per cent reduction makes a huge contribution,’ Nielsen noted. Maersk also plans a number of other cost-cutting measures, including the cutting out of turbochargers when they are not needed. JS

Ships Montly - January 2024

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