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SAL Orders Next-Generation Heavy-Lift Ships to be Built in China

next generation heavy lift vessels
SAL's new heavy lift vessels were designed for the offshore wind sector and advanced environmental performance (SAL Heavy Lift)

Published Sep 7, 2022 8:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

The heavy-lift segment is working to realize the opportunities that are continuing to emerge as the global offshore wind sector develops. SAL Heavy Lift, one of the leading maritime heavy lift and project cargo carriers, announced that it has signed building contracts for four next-generation heavy lift ships with Wuhu Shipyard, China as well as an option for two more vessels. Called the Orca Class, SAL and its joint venture partner Jumbo noted that designed the ships with capabilities for offshore wind customers while also incorporating the latest environmental considerations.

Scheduled for delivery starting in mid-year 2024, the first two ships will be exclusively involved in the transportation of offshore wind turbine components in a long-term commitment with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy. The two additional sister vessels will enter the premium heavy lift shipping market to serve the clients of the Jumbo-SAL-Alliance in the first half of 2025.

“The Orca vessels are setting new standards in global heavy lift shipping. They represent the new benchmark both in terms of their technical capabilities and modern climate-friendly propulsion systems,” says Dr. Martin Harren, Owner and CEO of SAL Heavy Lift and the Harren Group. “The ships will be the most efficient vessels in their class with consumption and emission figures far superior to any existing heavy lift vessel today.”

The vessels were developed in close cooperation with SAL’s joint venture partner, Jumbo Shipping. They also conducted discussions with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy from the very beginning to develop the capabilities of the new vessels. 

The vessels measure 492 feet in length with an 89-foot beam and provide a capacity of 14,600 dwt. According to the companies, despite their compact outer dimensions, the vessels have a box-shaped single cargo hold with the largest dimensions in their class. Provided the hatch covers, which have a capacity of 10 t/m², are not utilized for stowing super-heavy deck cargoes, such as 3,000 t cable carousels, the vessels can accommodate over-height cargo in the hold and sail with open hatch covers up to full scantling draft. Two 800 t Liebherr cranes specifically designed for this ship type can handle cargo items weighing up to 1,600 t in tandem.

“We are especially impressed with the flexibility these new vessels represent. Our business is complex, challenged by rapid globalization as well as the increasing size and weight of our turbine components. The need for flexibility is higher than ever, and the Orcas meet several of our anticipated medium- to long-term transportation challenges,” said Thomas Mortensen, Head of Transport Project Execution, Offshore at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy.

In addition to the optimized hull design, the Orca vessels will have an innovative propulsion system consisting of compact and efficient main engines and a diesel-electric booster function. Compared to other heavy lift vessel designs, the companies are saying the hybrid setup features the widest available range of economic speed settings and redundancy. 

The vessels are equipped with dual-fuel engines, which means that they can use methanol, including green methanol, as an alternative fuel. At a service speed of 15 knots, the vessels will consume significantly less than 20 tons of fuel oil per day, similar to far smaller-sized and geared MPP vessels. Alternatively, the vessels will be able to trade at a slow, ultra-efficient speed of 10 knots at 6 tons while still being able to reach a maximum speed of 18.5 knots for urgent deliveries.

Other elements of the design include an ice class notation 1A and a Polar Code certification. The reduced design temperature of the hull and equipment allows the ships to safely operate in cold conditions as well.