Maersk Viking – one more tick in the box on the route to delivery

Sea trial is to the marine personnel what the System Integration Test (SIT) is to the drillers: the first opportunity for a new orchestra to play a symphony together.

Up until the sea trial all the tests are on component or system level, such as pressure tests of tanks and piping, mechanical completion (check that valves are in the correct location, bolts in the flanges are tightened, pipe supports are in place, etc), running of individual pumps and motors, etc.

At the sea trial it is demonstrated that all these systems and components play together to make the drill ship a self-contained unit: the diesel engines drive the generators that supply power to the propulsion and steering, provide light onboard, drive the air conditioning, navigation instruments, the auxiliary machinery and systems and last, but not least the galley so food can be served.

In the week leading up to the sea trial MAERSK VIKING was at anchor in the bay outside the yard for tests and adjustments of the thrusters and other essential machinery. That the devil is in the detail was clearly demonstrated by an oil leak at one of the thruster drive shafts: After several hours of work dismantling equipment and opening the shaft seals it was found that an O-ring at a bolt had been forgotten and was causing the leak.

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Korea is at its most beautiful in fall with more clear skies than in summer as humidity levels drop, temperature is still pleasant during most of the days and the leaves are turning yellow, red and brown. Starting the sea trial in sunshine on a completely calm sea and sailing out to the open sea through the archipelago is an experience many people must pay a small fortune to experience – for us it was “just another day in the office”. The trip went around the northern point of the Geoje Island past the entrance to the Busan container port and over the tunnel that together with several bridges connect Geoje Island to the mainland, and that have reduced the trip from the airport to the yard from a 3½ hour drive to only 1 hour.

As we approached open water we made a safety drill so everyone knew which lifeboat to go to in case of emergency. The thrusters were gradually run up to 100% load for the first time while other tests and adjustments were done in parallel, such as fire/general alarm tests, fresh water generator test and tests of navigation equipment. Later there were made black-start recovery test and maneuvering tests, while at the same time noise and vibrations were measured, and the mud pumps were run for several hours.

The ship performed very well with only a few surprises that need modifications and fine tuning on return, so there were a lot of happy faces around.

The sea trial also gave the opportunity to meet a lot of the crew: Many people with different backgrounds, but all very enthusiastic and positive about their roles on the new ship and the possibilities they have to influence the rig and the environment onboard, so a very positive experience.

The next big test is the SIT that will take place at end of December, which will be followed by what the yard call “punch killing” and then the ship is ready for delivery and the voyage to the US Gulf of Mexico.

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A trip down Memory Lane

A walk around the inner bay at the city of Jangpyeong-Dong next to the yard one of the days before the sea trial sent me down Memory Lane:

Samsung Shipyard was built on a greenfield site in the late -70-ies and I visited first time in 1982. At that time the no. 1 building dock was operational and dock no. 2 was under construction. Ship no. 16 from SHI was at outfitting stage at that time, and MAERSK VIKING has building number 2018, so 1000+ ships have been built in the meantime – plus topsides modules and other structures.

Around the yard there were some apartment buildings and dormitories, and then there was a small fishing and farming village, where there is now a modern town of 100,000+ inhabitants. Along the inner bay the rice fields went all the way down to the water, where shellfish and muscles were picked up at low tide. Since pictures say more than a 1000 words I digged-out some of the photos from that trip which can be compared to the pictures from the same locations taken this month. Truly amazing how much has changed since my first visit and a fantastic journey for Korea in the past 31 years.

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Samsung today can best be described as an assembly line, where the outfitted steel blocks coming from sub-suppliers in Korea and China are welded together in the graving docks or floating docks, lifted in place by giant floating cranes, the largest of which can lift up to 8,000ton. Incredible that steel blocks more than 20m long can be made to the accuracy of a few millimeters – small enough that the gaps can be welded without cutting-off surplus materials at the joints. The main activities in the Geoje yard in Korea is assembly and testing & commissioning. The first impression during the day is that there are a lot of ships and not so many people, but do not be fooled: in the morning and evening there are people, bicycles, bikes and cars everywhere – understandable when considering that around 30,000 people work at the yard.

Samsung will deliver upwards of 50 vessels this year, consisting of a mix of FPSO’s, container ships, drill ships, LNG tankers and oil & gas topsides, including the Worlds largest floating unit, the Prelude FLNG for Shell that will be completed in a couple of years time.

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The bird island

In the middle of the basin in front of the outfitting piers there is a small rocky island, uninhabited except a colony of cranes and until quite recently left untouched. Asking why the rock had not been affected by building the yard I got the explanation that an old, local farmer owned it and did not want to sell when the yard was built; and he stood his ground every time the subject came up since then. A few years ago a new outfitting pier was built just touching the rock, but still with no access. When I asked what had changed I was told that SHI and the local government had now agreed that the yard could not touch the island as long as there are birds, and they seem quite happy where they are so probably the old mans’ island is safe for the foreseeable future.

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