A VERY UNUSUAL RoRo vessel made the second maiden voyage in its 20-year life from Weihai in China to Busan in Korea last December. The history of Daewoo Frontier, formerly Repubblica di Genova, includes a capsize and six months spent with parts of the vessel submerged. The restoration process was difficult and presented a set of new challenges- Wärtsilä in Korea handled the engine room automation and ballast-tank alarm system.
Built in Italy by Fincantieri in 1988, Daewoo Frontier underwent a complete renovation in Korea and China last year. The work took a full six months. Initially in a dreadful condition, much of the vessel has now been technically upgraded to the level found in current newbuildings. “This vessel is really one of a kind. I’m sure other ships have undergone similar repairs, but I doubt that any of them had been below water for such a long period,” says Henrik Krull, Manager of Field Service in Electric & Automation at Wärtsilä in Korea.
Capsize in Antwerp harbour
What happened to Daewoo Frontier was hardly an indication that the ship would one day be once more crossing the oceans. Owned by Grimaldi Lines, the capsizing of Repubblica di Genova, a 24,000 DWT combined container and RoRo vessel, was front page news in March 2007.
The accident occurred as the vessel was being loaded in the Belgian port of Antwerp. The 215-metre-long ship slowly rolled over onto her starboard side in a dead-end dock. No injuries resulted, but about 100 of the some 300 trucks and containers that already been loaded fell into the water.
For six months the ship laid half-submerged in the harbour, first resting on her starboard side and later, having capsized again, for a shorter period on her port side. All sections of the vessel had therefore been submerged for a longer or shorter time before she was at last returned to her proper orientation. It took almost another six months of waiting in Antwerp before Grimaldi Lines managed to sell the ship to Independence Shipping, a company registered in Panama. Renamed Daewoo Frontier by her new operator, Daewoo Logistics Corp. of South Korea, she left Antwerp in March 2008 and was towed to Busan in Korea via the Cape of Good Hope, arriving safely in June 2008 after an 83-day voyage.
Repairing the ship’s systems
Management of Daewoo Frontier is handled by Doriko Ltd, a Korean provider of marine services. As well as keeping the ship’s technical equipment in good condition, this meant that Doriko was responsible for repairs to the vessel. One of the companies chosen by Doriko for the repair work was Wärtsilä in Korea. The first task was to dismantle existing equipment and remove with the cables connecting systems that were to be retrofitted.
“Our agenda included the full repair of more or less all the vessel’s systems,” says Krull. “Wärtsilä was responsible for the engine room automation and the ballast-tank alarm system. Other local companies took care of jobs such as repair of the main engine and auxiliary engines, the navigation system, crew accommodation and part of the hull. Wärtsilä also supplied many spare parts for the main engine - our most important task was to repair the main engine control system and install an electronic governor and safety system.”
A lot worse than expected
Repair work in Busan was carried out with the vessel berthed alongside the quay. Everyone involved in the dismantling process was surprised by the condition of the vessel – it was much worse than expected. Extended exposure to oil and seawater had left its mark.
According to Krull, the vessel had not been in a particularly good state of maintenance before the accident, so six months under water meant things were in terrible condition “Many oil leaks had occurred and almost every single component was pitch black and impossible to recognize,” he says.
“The biggest problem for us was the working environment on board. Ventilation was poor and organizing adequate lighting - the black oil covered everything - was very difficult. And as the schedule for finishing the repair work was very tight, there were too many people working on board at the same time, making things even more complicated.”
Fires on board
After the dismantling process was complete and inspections of major repair work had been completed, Daewoo Frontier was towed from Busan to a drydock at the Weihai shipyard in northern China. Arriving in mid- September, the ship remained there until it was delivered in mid-December.
At Weihai, Wärtsilä completed the installation of all the systems in its contract. This meant that Wärtsilä was involved for the full duration of the ship’s restoration, with four engineers assigned to the project during most of this time. Wärtsilä also assigned four people from a subcontractor in Korea and another four people from a Chinese subcontractor after the vessel arrived in China. The main tasks carried out by these subcontractors involved dismantling existing systems and pulling new cables.
Working in China presented its own set of problems, says Krull. “Although it is hot in the summer, Weihai is very cold in winter. There was even heavy snowfall during the repair period, and this made the work a lot harder as the heating available on board was not very good.”
“Difficulties emerged as a result of local ways of working: safety was not always the shipyard’s highest priority, and one major fire and several minor ones occurred on board.”
The shipyard is also located a long way from any bigger city, which caused several practical problems,” he says. “Proper hotel facilities were lacking and some of the time our staff had to wash their clothes themselves by hand in the bath tub each evening. Lunch was eaten sitting on the cargo deck in a very dirty area, Internet connections were limited and network coverage for mobile phone connections was poor.”
Up-to-date engine automation
Despite all the practical problems, the repair work was completed on time. Delays resulting from the fires - technical equipment was first damaged by the flames and then again by the water used to extinguish them - were also overcome.
During Daewoo Frontier’s maiden voyage to Busan all minor corrections were made using e-mail and telephone. “The vessel is now in good condition,” he says. “In terms of automation, many parts of the ship’s systems were updated to a more sophisticated level. The engine room, for example, was originally built for manned running. She now has new engine-room automation systems that make her almost equivalent to a ship built in 2009.”
Daewoo Frontier is now sailing the world’s oceans. After her maiden voyage she went to Cuba, then to Europe.
Text : Harriet Öster / 02.2009 “In Detail Marine”