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Container Shipping & Trade

Container Shipping & Trade

Introducing NYK Blue Jay

Thu 16 Jun 2016 by Andrew McAlpine

Introducing <i>NYK Blue Jay</i>
NYK Blue Jay is the largest box ship to be built in Japan

In recent years Japanese carrier Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line) has been relatively conservative when ordering new tonnage, preferring ships of around 9,000 teu that can be deployed easily on various trades and not solely on Europe–Asia services.

Then in 2014 it ordered a series of eight 14,000 teu ships from Japan’s second largest shipbuilder, Japan Marine United Corp (JMU). The order included an option for two additional vessels which the line exercised in July of the same year. All 10 Panama registered ships are to be constructed at JMU’s Kure shipyard in Japan’s Hiroshima prefecture and delivered between 2016 and 2018. The ships will be used to replace existing smaller tonnage as well as four ships chartered from Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL).


The first of a new class

On 22 February, after completing its sea trials, the first vessel of the new series NYK Blue Jay was handed over in a ceremony at the Kure shipyard. According to NYK Line and JMU, it is one of the most efficient container ships afloat and has been designed to offer the same operating economies as larger 20,000 teu vessels that will shortly be coming on stream.

Although not the world’s largest box ship, NYK Blue Jay holds the title of the largest container ship to be built in Japan to date. With an overall length of 364m, a beam of 50m and a draught of 15m its dimensions are now standard for this design and size of container vessel.

Like all ships in this capacity bracket it has the familiar twin island layout, which sees the navigation bridge and crew accommodation split from the funnel and engine spaces. JMU’s design has the standard eight by 10 by four container bay configuration which is seen in similar designs from other shipbuilders such as Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), Hyundai Heavy Industries and Samsung Heavy Industries. This means that it has eight bays forward of the bridge, 10 bays between the bridge and funnel superstructures and four 40ft bays aft of the funnel.

A total of 6,316 teu can be loaded in 18 rows underdeck, with 7,684 teu in 20 rows on deck in. On deck a maximum of nine tiers can be loaded on all bays aft of the bridge with eight tiers forward of the bridge. Between each bay, two-tier high lashing bridges enable containers to be lashed up to the fourth tier.

Extra thick high strength steel, jointly developed with Japan’s JFE Steel Corp, has been used during construction. The YP460 class heavy thick plate is more than 70mm in thickness and has been specifically developed for use in ultra large container ships, according to JFE. It also states that large scale tests have revealed that this newly developed steel plate performs very well in stopping brittle crack propagation and catastrophic fracture.

One design feature that is becoming popular for modern container ships is fully enclosed bridge wings. NYK Blue Jay is the first NYK Line vessel to have this feature, which means that no part of the bridge, including its wings, is exposed to the elements. This creates a more comfortable working environment for the crew and increases security. Each wing has a full set of navigation controls that allow officers and pilots alike to manoeuvre the ship when in port.

Although container ships are not designed to operate empty, when they do, or are only partially loaded, the superstructure can act as a large windbreak. This is especially the case as ships are built ever wider. This resistance increases fuel consumption. However, in the case of NYK Blue Jay a considerable amount of effort has clearly gone into creating a design that offers the least possible wind resistance when the vessel is empty or partially loaded. Furthermore, the superstructure does not have any unnecessary internal void spaces, which reduces material costs. The design is more akin to superstructures that are seen on modern very large crude carriers.


Cutting edge engine technology

In order to compete with the new 20,000 teu vessels that are coming into service, everything about the design of NYK Blue Jay and its sisters has been optimised to gain the necessary operating economies. JMU’s SURF-BULB (swept-back up-thrusting rudder fin with bulb) is installed, which reduces fuel consumption by around 3-5 per cent by converting the rotational energy behind the propeller into a thrusting force.

According to NYK Line, the hull has been designed with exceptional hydrodynamic efficiency while allowing improved cargo loading efficiency. This has been achieved by minimising engineroom space. Main propulsion is provided by the latest Wärtsilä Generation X two-stroke diesel engine, the 9-cylinder Wärtsilä X82. The unit was designed by Winterthur Gas & Diesel (WinGD) of Switzerland, and manufactured by Diesel United of Japan, part of the IHI group. It is the first engine of its kind to be fitted to a container ship.

This cutting edge engine is capable of running on methanol and was specifically designed and developed by WinGD to meet demand from shipowners looking for the lowest total cost of ownership.

Generation X diesel and dual-fuel engines are conceived for maximised vessel payloads combined with low fuel consumption and emissions. The technology also enables two completely separate power ranges to be selected, each of which is optimised for higher speeds as well as slow steaming, depending on the operator’s needs at the time. The lower rating point achieves better fuel consumption at a lower vessel speed, while the higher rating point provides fuel cost benefits at high operating vessel speed.

According to WinGD, in order to switch between the power ranges some changes are required on the engine. First, the turbochargers have to be re-matched for the new rating. One way to do this is to choose two ratings with enough power difference so that one turbocharger out of three can be cut off. This is the solution applied on NYK Blue Jay.

Depending on the actual rating, no turbocharger parts, or very few of them, have to be changed, so there is not a great cost involved in ordering new parts. The parameters in the electronic engine control system need to be modified to ensure best performance and compliance with IMO NOx emission limits. Fuel injector tips also need to be replaced for optimised combustion. But potential fuel savings are there to be made.

Rudolf Holtbecker, business and application development general manager at WinGD, says: “A holistic approach was taken when designing the Generation X engine. It is designed to enable total vessel efficiency to be optimised by a careful combination of main engine parameters and efficiency, the propulsion system and the ship hull.

“The capability to run at lower engine speed fosters the higher efficiency of larger propellers. We took account of this in the engine design. The Wärtsilä X82 used in NYK Blue Jay, for example, employs higher stroke-to-bore ratios than in predecessor ships. This not only facilitates the larger, slower turning propellers but also gives higher engine internal efficiency.”

NYK Line and JMU are to collaborate with Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), a subsidiary of NYK Line, to collect operational data from NYK Blue Jay and its sisters. MTI has developed ship information management system SIMS – an onboard device that allows detailed hourly data on operational performance and fuel consumption to be shared between onboard crew and land-based operations staff.

Using the new series of vessels, the joint big data research project aims to achieve the following three objectives:


  • Contribution to energy savings by analysing propulsion performance: Improving the efficiency of propellers through analysis of the propulsion performance of ocean-going vessels.
  • Pursuit of safety by monitoring hull stress: Using the hull stress monitoring device that will be installed on the container ships of the new series to accumulate data from the hulls of ocean-going vessels and utilise this data for safety.
  • Prevention of serious engine plant accidents: Collecting detailed data from the engine plant through the creation of new monitoring methodologies.
Name NYK Blue Jay
Call sign 3ENQ8
Port of registry Panama
IMO number 9741372
Classification society ClassNK
Builder Japan Marine United Corp (Kure Shipyard)
Keel laid Apr-15
Launched Sep-15
Delivered 22-Feb-16
Hull no 5061
Length o/a 364.15m
Breadth 51.00m
Depth moulded 29.50m
Draught 15.79m
Gross tonnage 82,126
Deadweight 139,335
Main engine  Diesel United – Wärtsilä W9X82
Bow thruster 2 x 1,800kW
Total capacity 14,026 teu

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