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Charting New Waters in Shipbuilding Charting New Waters in Shipbuilding

Published on MHI Graph (July 2012 Issue)

PRODUCT EXCELLENCE[ TRANSPORT & SPACE ]

Charting New Waters in Shipbuilding

Tradition and Technology - the Fair Winds to Future Expansion

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The Cornerstone of MHI Craftsmanship, MHI’s Shipbuilding has Continued to Deliver Ships that Respond to the Needs of the Time

The history of MHI's shipbuilding history began in 1857, four years after the arrival of Commodore Perry's Black Ships. Ever since, shipbuilding has remained the cornerstone of the company's technology and craftsmanship, and more than 5,400 ships have been constructed to date. For over 150 years, MHI's ships have continuously evolved to meet the changing needs of the times.  Between the opening of Japan and the beginning of World War II, ships played an important role connecting Japan to the rest of the world. As the country pressed forward with modernization, demand grew for vessels that could serve overseas routes, such as the TENYO MARU luxury cruise ship (1908 (Note)) and emigrant ships. The subsequent emergence of geopolitical tensions shifted focus towards warships. MHI drew on its shipbuilding technology to build a string of warships, including the majestic MUSASHI battleship (1942).  After World War II, MHI's robust shipbuilding activities contributed to earning the foreign currency that Japan needed for its economic recovery. When the country entered its era of rapid economic growth, MHI supported its leap to economic superpower status by building state-of-the-art ships such as Japan's first container carrier, the HAKONE MARU (1968), and VLCCs.

  • Throughout this article, all years in parenthesis refer to the year of ship completion.
  • Photo Top: The SUZURAN and SUISEN, high-speed ferry ships (overall length 224.82m and gross tonnage 16,810t), use CRP pod propulsion technology to integrate a propeller directly connected to the diesel engine with an electric pod propulsion unit. (Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan)

Building Ships with High Added Value, Beyond Just Transporting People and Goods

MHI's stance of building ships that respond to the trends of the age remains unchanged today. Global demands for more environmentally responsible and economical products are being met by the OPAL ACE (2011), a car carrier that combines fuel efficiency and environmental advances, the SUZURAN and SUISEN, high-speed ferries fitted with a revolutionary hybrid CRP (contra-rotating propellers) pod propulsion system, and a large LNG carrier equipped with a peapod-shaped tank cover and fuel-efficient turbine plant (scheduled for completion in 2014).  As the only company in the world capable of integrated production of not just ships but also engines, high-performance turbines, and marine machinery, MHI is now presented by the tide of the times with a glorious opportunity to deploy the full range of its technological and manufacturing powers.  In addition to enhancing fuel efficiency and pursuing increased environmental friendliness, MHI's shipbuilding business is shifting its focus towards high-value-added ships for niche markets. This is best exemplified by the development of the HAKUREI, a marine resources research vessel, and the YUMEIRUKA, a deep-sea unmanned exploration vessel.  MHI's shipbuilding business is about to change course towards manufacturing products that deliver ever-more value to society.

CRP pod propulsion
Delivering high energy-saving benefits and outstanding ship maneuverability, the CRP propulsion system (photo above) was adopted for the first time in the world in the sister ships HAMANASU and AKASHIA, in 2004. (Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan)
A: HAKUREI , a marine resources research vessel.
HAKUREI (2012), a marine resources research vessel that searches for rare metals and other resources in the waters off Japan. It is fitted with excavation machinery and various cutting-edge investigative devices. (Shimonoseki Shipyard & Machinery Works, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan)
B: YUMEIRUKA and JIMBEI, autonomous underwater vehicle.
The YUMEIRUKA (2012) autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) can be used at depths of up to 3,000m. Capable of remaining underwater for up to 16 hours, it is designed to capture high-resolution deep sea images using sound waves. MHI concurrently completed another AUV called JIMBEI, which can measure water depth, temperature, salinity, and pH. (lower left in photo). (Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan) 
C: Large LNG carrier SAYAENDO.
Large LNG carrier with the recently developed "SAYAENDO" continuous integrated tank cover. Fitted with a highly efficient ultra steam turbine (UST) plant, this ship is expected to come into active use worldwide in tandem with dramatic increases in shale gas production.  (Planned for building at Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan)

Achieved through Meticulous Design, Abundant Resourcefulness, and Close Cooperation

At MHI, merchant shipbuilding begins with a design phase lasting more than a year. The enormous volume of drawings created during this period forms the basis for sculpting the steel plates during hull work. These plates are then welded together into "blocks" that will then be erected to form the skeleton and shape of the ship. While pipes and equipment are attached during the outfitting process, adjustments and finishing are applied to the engine and other onboard equipment. The ship is then completed after a series of sea trials. Construction of a 200m long car carrier involves more than 1,000 personnel working in various areas and takes almost two years from order placement to delivery. A ship fully equipped with an engine room, cargo space, and living quarters is in effect a giant building created to travel the high seas. Realization of production plans based on detailed designs and extensive knowledge, therefore, requires close cooperation among workers who process more than 100,000 parts.

Aerial photograph of Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works
Large cranes load blocks onto the building berth where they will be welded together to form the hull. It takes only 60 days for the ship to take shape. Aligned slabs of inanimate steel may be a scene representative of shipyards, but the sight of a fully assembled hull is equally awe-inspiring. (Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)
This massive block will form the stern
This massive block will form the stern of a car carrier. It contains the engine room and the propeller shaft that requires high-precision fitting. Another nearly 400 blocks of varying sizes will also be brought to the building berth for erection.(Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)
D: Blocks have been upsized in order to increase shipbuilding efficiency.
Blocks have been upsized in order to increase shipbuilding efficiency by reducing work time on the building berth. Here, a 2,100t block is being lifted onto the building berth by a giant marine crane.
E: A marine crane is used to transfer a giant 20,000 horsepower diesel engine from the yard's engine plant to the engine room.
A marine crane is used to transfer a giant 20,000 horsepower diesel engine from the yard's engine plant to the engine room. This enables even more efficient building.
F:A block being hoisted by a jib crane.
A block being hoisted by a jib crane for slotting into the side of the hull. A ship is like a jigsaw puzzle composed of many different-shaped blocks. (Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)

Elegant Shape Achieved Through MHI’s Craftsmanship Cultivated over Many Years

Creating a hull out of massive pieces of steel requires the human touch at the end. For example, the design enabling a ship's beautiful shape is based on the latest achievements in fluid dynamics. However, craftsmanship in plate forming is indispensable to the actualization of this design. The shaft supporting the heavyweight propeller also has to be fitted with micrometric precision. Furthermore, skill and experience are needed to be able to predict the hull shrinkage caused by temperature changes and the influence of deformation after launching. In these and other ways, these giant structures are ultimately products of human craftsmanship.

An enormous 26t propeller with a diameter of 6.6m, made at the Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works, being fitted to its shaft.

An enormous 26t propeller with a diameter of 6.6m, made at the Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works, being fitted to its shaft. The beautifully finished gleaming propeller has to be handled with the utmost care. The shaft, which transfers power produced by the engine (G) to the propeller, is more than 20m long and with a diameter of only about 60cm needs to be fitted to its bearing (H) within a tolerance of 0.01mm or less. (Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)

G: Engine, H: Bearing

(G) to the propeller, is more than 20m long and with a diameter of only about 60cm needs to be fitted to its bearing (H) within a tolerance of 0.01mm or less. (Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)

The hull's outer plates are molded into the shape specified by the design drawings using burners (to cause expansion) and water cooling (to induce shrinkage).
The hull's outer plates are molded into the shape specified by the design drawings using burners (to cause expansion) and water cooling (to induce shrinkage). At least ten years of experience are required to create the correct bend in accordance with the detailed design specifications.(Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)
Welding plays an indispensable role in the assembling steel plates into blocks and in the erection of these blocks in the building berth.
Welding plays an indispensable role in assembling steel plates into blocks and in the erection of these blocks in the building berth. A 200m long car carrier entails a total welding distance of about 440km. Efficiency is considerably increased by automated welding, but the skills of an experienced welder are called upon for difficult sections that cannot be suitably performed by a machine. (Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)

Technology Accumulated Through the Years is Now Being Applied to Chart a New Course for MHI's Shipbuilding Business

In 2012, the Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works ceased merchant shipbuilding activities after 107 years of service due to the reorganization of MHI's Shipbuilding & Ocean Development business segment. It will now specialize in other vessels such as submarines, submersibles, and marine structures, and the shipbuilding technology and knowledge accumulated here to date will be applied to the development and production of those products, as well as to merchant ship production carried on at MHI's shipyards in Nagasaki and Shimonoseki. The scope of this technology transfer extends well beyond shipbuilding, as the welding technology and mega-block construction method have already been utilized during the construction of power generation plants. MHI's shipbuilding business has thus set sail for fresh waters on a global scale, embarking on new projects to benefit the planet and all human life on it.

A car carrier is launched by sliding down the sloping building berth into the sea.
A car carrier is launched by sliding down the sloping building berth into the sea. The launching ceremony is enjoyed both by the local community and by all those involved in shipbuilding like the long-awaited birth of a precious baby. After the launch, the ship undergoes outfitting in preparation for its many long voyages on the high seas.(Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)

MHI'S Ships Respond to the Needs of the Age

Oceangoing vessels initially played an important role in diplomacy and trade, as a mirror reflecting the times. But with the change of the times, the usages and performance of ships have diversified. MHI, a rich repository of superior shipbuilding technology, has continuously created ships that meet the requirements of the time.
The underlying spirit and yearnings of each age have always been expressed in MHI's ships - and will continue to do so long into the future.

The beginning of modern marine transport

For Japan, a country surrounded by sea on all sides, the ship was for a long time its only means of trading and exchanging culture with the outside world. After the country fully opened its doors, sea routes were developed, and the construction of passenger and other types of vessels flourished. The outbreak of World War II increased the number of warships being built.

TENYO MARU [luxury cruise ship]
TENYO MARU [luxury cruise ship]
(1908) (Note1)
Japan's first large passenger ship, exceeding 10,000t.
ASAMA MARU [luxury cruise ship]
ASAMA MARU [luxury cruise ship]
(1929)
Sailed on the San Francisco route. Also called "Queen of the Pacific."
MUSASHI [battleship]
MUSASHI [battleship]
(1942)
Incorporating the essence of contemporary naval technology, this was one of the world's largest battleship at the time.

The postwar years and rapid economic growth

Shipbuilding flourished after the war thanks to its strategic role in Japan's policy for economic recovery. As Japan's growth took off, trade volumes ballooned, increasing demand for large vessels capable of transporting huge quantities of containers and energy resources. MHI responded to these changing needs by accelerating its construction of specialized vessels.

BRAZIL MARU [emigrant ship]
BRAZIL MARU [emigrant ship]
(1954)
Built as Japan's first full-scale postwar passenger vessel, it also was the last ship to carry Japanese emigrants to South America.
HAKONE MARU [container carrier]
HAKONE MARU [container carrier]
(1968)
Japan's first container carrier marked the dawn of the mass cargo transport age.
DAVID PACKARD [tanker]
DAVID PACKARD [tanker]
(1977)
Ultra Large Crude Carrier built at Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works.

Creation of a sustainable society

We live in an age that imposes increasingly strict environmental regulations on marine transportation, while also demanding improved energy efficiency. Today, besides transporting people in comfort, passenger ships and ferries are expected to deliver excellent environmental performance. Also, whereas until now shipbuilding technology that has been applied to carrying natural and energy resources, going forward it will be used to search for and exploit new resources.

CYGNUS PASSAGE [Moss type LNG carrier]
CYGNUS PASSAGE [Moss type LNG carrier]
(2009)
Superior reliability, navigable in frozen waters, e.g. between Japan and Sakhalin.
MOL MAESTRO [container carrier]
MOL MAESTRO [container carrier]
(2009)
Low fuel consumption and outstanding cargo capacity, equipped for high environmental performance.
ASHIGARA [DDG]
ASHIGARA [DDG]
(2008)
State-of-the-art Aegis warship with top-class air defense capabilities.
OPAL ACE [car carrier]
OPAL ACE [car carrier]
(2011)
Low fuel consumption and decrease in risk of fuel spillages.
MALS [Mitsubishi air lubrication system]
MALS (note2) [Mitsubishi air lubrication system]
Developed in 2010
Uses air bubbles to reduce friction between the seawater and the hull, contributing to higher fuel efficiency.
HAKURYU [submarine]
HAKURYU [submarine]
(2011)
Conventionally powered submarine with world-class submergence capability and quiet performance.
SAYAENDO [LNG carrier]
SAYAENDO (note2) [LNG carrier]
Scheduled for completion in 2014
Highly efficient ship equipped with continuous tank cover integrated with the hull structure.

Licensing of technology

Cooperation with domestic and overseas companies
Cooperation with domestic and overseas companies
MHI provides support in shipbuilding technology and conceptual designs for merchant shipbuilding.

Quest for enhanced comfort and pleasure

DIAMOND PRINCESS [cruise ship]
DIAMOND PRINCESS [cruise ship]
(2004)
New-generation cruise ship equipped with environmentally conscious power generation and propulsion system.
ISHIKARI [ferry]
ISHIKARI [ferry]
(2011)
Endowed with an array of public spaces, achieving luxury on a par with passenger ships.
Next-generation ferries
Next-generation ferries (Note2)
Adoption of Mitsubishi Air Lubrication System (MALS) and gas fuel for enhanced environmental performance.
Large luxury cruise ships
Large luxury cruise ships (Note2)
Enhanced security and comfort with refined design and advanced energy conservation.

Quest for new resources and energy sources

SHINKAI 6500 [deep submergence research vehicle]
SHINKAI 6500
[deep submergence research vehicle]
(1989)
The world's deepest class of manned deep submergence research vehicles capable of diving to a depth of 6,500m.
CHIKYU [deep sea drilling vessel]
CHIKYU [deep sea drilling vessel]
(2005)
The world's first vessel for extreme depth drilling in the earth's mantle and in earthquake zones.
HAKUREI [marine resources research vessel]
HAKUREI
[marine resources research vessel]
(2012)
Explores for rare metals and other resources in the waters off Japan.
Resource research vessels
Resource research vessels (Note2)
For accurate analysis of the surface and substructure of large areas of the seabed in 3D.
Offshore wind turbineOffshore wind turbine
Offshore wind turbine (Note2), Offshore wind turbine
installation vessel (Note2)
Exploiting untapped value at sea through integration of wind power generation and a marine structure.
  • 1Throughout this article, all years in parenthesis refer to year of ship completion.
  • 2Conceptual image

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