Charting New Waters in Shipbuilding
Tradition and Technology - the Fair Winds to Future Expansion
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.
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.
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. 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) 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)
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.
- 1Throughout this article, all years in parenthesis refer to year of ship completion.
- 2Conceptual image