Autumn / Winter 2021

Steel cutting milestone for two dual fuel vessels

James Fisher Tankships is adding two new liquified natural gas (LNG) powered clean petroleum products (CPP)/IMO II tankers to the James Fisher Everard (JFE) fleet. The vessels are being built in China Merchants Jinling Shipyard in Yangzhou, China, and the project reached a key milestone in August 2021 – the steel cutting of the first vessel. This marks the end of the design phase and paves the way for start of construction.

The vessels are designed to run on LNG and/or conventional marine gasoil on a ‘dual fuel’ basis and feature optimised hull forms to enhance their hydrodynamic performance and efficiency, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the sustainability goals of JFE customers and the wider James Fisher group. 

The two new tankers will be added to the existing fleet and will be the first CPP/IMO II tankers of this size to feature dual fuel propulsion.

The steel cutting milestone is notable in the face of the COVID-19 restrictions that remain in place in China and the strict lockdowns that have been in place in Yangzhou.  

As project technical lead for the tankships division, Iain Salter would normally travel to and from China every few months to oversee progress.  However, travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic hampered his access and he had to jump through considerable logistical hoops to attend the important steel cutting ceremony, showing true James Fisher pioneering spirit and resilience (as his diary below attests).

Final delivery of the vessels is expected at the end of 2022 and early 2023. 

‘Periodic liaison visits are a mainstay of a successful shipbuild programme,’ says Iain, who plans to visit China again next year: ‘But with flight availability and quarantine requirements as they are, it is not practical to visit as often as would normally be the case.’

DIARY OF SHIP BUILDING SITE-VISIT DURING A PANDEMIC 

SEPTEMBER 2020

Negotiations between JFE and the shipbuilder, CMJL begin. ‘Negotiations would normally take place over long round-table discussions, but discussions were conducted over early morning MS Teams meetings (China is seven/eight hours ahead of the UK) made difficult by big echoey meeting rooms, multiple-languages and frequent internet disruptions,’ says Iain.

MAY 2021

UK nationals are now allowed to obtain Chinese visas but a ban on direct flights from the UK to China made things difficult, and any flights that did briefly come online were subsequently cancelled. Finally, Iain gets the last available seat on any permissible route – via Amsterdam to Xiamen.

JULY 2021

Iain travels from Barrow to London for the required pre-flight PCR and antibody tests, repeating the tests at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam before setting off for Xiamen. ‘The flight was notable for zero in-flight service (just a bag with two bottles of water and snacks/fruit) and flight attendants wearing full body PPE including surgical boots, goggles and visor,’ he says. After filling out numerous online forms on arrival and further PCR tests, Iain was taken to an official quarantine hotel, sprayed with sanitiser and ‘briefed’ (in Chinese) to begin his 14-day incarceration – and detox.  ‘We were not allowed daily exercise breaks, even walking around the room was prohibited!’ he says.

AUGUST 2021 

Freedom Day! At the end of July, Iain flies to Shanghai (where he enjoys his first cup of coffee since Amsterdam) for one week of ‘community observation’ (daily temperature checks and regular PCR tests) which is unexpectedly extended to four weeks when a Covid outbreak close to the yard in Yangzhou pust the area into a strict local lockdown. ‘There was some doubt I would even get to the yard at all before my 90 day visa expired,’ he says, but on August 27th restrictions were partially lifted. 

SEPTEMBER 2021

Staying at a dedicated quarantine hotel (with no bottled water, lunch or dinner, fridge or housekeeping – although the yard provided lunch in its canteen and kindly assisted in arranging takeaways for the evenings), Iain attends a belated steel cutting ceremony on 7th September and is able to engage in two weeks of productive meetings and discussions with the shipyard, and to help establish the site team. He finally returns to Shanghai on 12th September and, after his homeward flight was cancelled, delayed, and then rescheduled, arrives safely back in Barrow on 17th September after 68 days away.   

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