Watch: AAL Shipping’s methanol-ready mega-size vessel floated out in China

The first next-generation methanol-ready multipurpose vessel being built in China for Singapore-based shipping company AAL Shipping has been launched.

In late December 2023, AAL Limassol was floated out into the water from dry dock and moved to pier at the CSSC HuangPu WenChong Shipyard.

AAL Limassol is the first of the company’s six new mega size 32,000 dwt ‘Super B-Class’ heavy lift vessels which will be dual fuel compatible and methanol ready.

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This milestone marks the third of four crucial stages in the ship’s construction before delivery and even the most important (the stages comprising steel cutting, keel laying, launching and finally sea trial).

“With all major equipment installed on board, launching provides the perfect test of a newbuild’s water integrity and stability. Once successfully completed, engine shafting, hatch covers, pontoons and even cranes are finally adjusted. This is primarily because the hull structure of the vessel flexes into a shape which is closer to its normal operating mode and, with “digital manufacturing”, the results are extremely good and within the required engineering tolerance levels,” Yahaya Sanusi, Deputy Head of AAL’s Transport Engineering Department explained.

“By this stage, approximately three quarters of the work onboard has already been completed and many of the additional work packages can be built simultaneously and later assembled on board. The AAL LIMASSOL will go for sea trial in April next 2024 before her delivery to AAL in May – so she will have been on the water for over five months.

“In general, any work that can be done before launching is a benefit, as after this stage access is obviously harder and jobs take longer. At the yard where the six Super B-Class vessels are being built, it typically takes about 60 days after launching to prepare a standard container vessel for sea-trial,” Rangel Vassilev, Director of Newbuilding Projects at AAL’s sister company, Columbia Shipmanagement, said.

“However, the SUPER-B class is a much more complicated build. Its hatch covers, tween decks, three heavy lift cranes – featuring a 700-tonne maximum tandem lift capacity – and the all-new ‘AAL Extendable Eco-Deck System’ must all be in place and tested during this stage and honed prior to sea trial. The AAL Limassol is also the first of her fleet, so we anticipate her equipment commissioning and mooring trials to take over 120 days.”

“Our next step is to undertake mooring trials of the AAL LIMASSOL’s machinery and cargo handling equipment and prepare her for the final sea-trial stage. At that point, speed, fuel consumption and other manoeuvring characteristics will all be tested. For a naval architect this is critical as it will demonstrate how well the vessel performs and responds in water – especially as up to this point performance has been calculated in tank tests and using theoretical algorithms,” Sanusi added.

“We commissioned the Super B-Class with the aim of its six ships being the finest, premium multipurpose heavy lift vessels in the water and therefore they are unique in so many ways and harness state-of-the-art design and cargo handling technologies. For this reason, we planned a construction schedule that would allow all the time needed for every facet of the vessels to be fully tested and realised. We are delighted that everything is proceeding as planned and our customers can expect the first of the fleet to be operational by May ’24,” he added.

The Super B-Class

The Super B-Class design was a collaboration between AAL’s engineering and commercial teams and sister company, Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM). 

Overall, the Super B-Class will meet the highest possible automation and emission standards, as well as comply with IMO regulations on emissions and sustainability for environmental protection, according to the company. The vessels are dual fuel and methanol ready and run-on MAN main engines of 7,380 kW – supported by 2 x 1,700 kW and 1 x 1,065 kW auxiliary diesel generators. They are NOx Tier III compatible with HPSCR, EEDI phase 3 compliancy, featuring a projected service speed of 14.5 knots. They will also feature modern ballast water treatment systems and innovative hull coating that delivers greater fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions.

Each unit can accommodate over 42,000 cbm of cargo big and small on a single sailing. The significant clear weather deck space of 146 x 26 meters will feature a retractable deck extension system – the ‘AAL ECO-DECK’ designed by AAL’s engineering team – that can increase stowage space even further.

The remaining ships from the Super B-Class batch will be named after major breakbulk ports — AAL Antwerp, AAL Hamburg, AAL Houston, AAL Dubai and AAL Dammam.

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