January's top stories: Royal Caribbean's new ship, piracy hits five-year low
January brought major orders for cruise vessels, wind farm support ships and container vessels, while ports in the UAE and UK reported progress on expansion projects. The International Maritime Bureau, meanwhile, released encouraging statistics showing a year-on-year decrease in pirate attacks in 2012. Ship-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from January 2013.
STX France started 2013 on a positive note, with a $1.3bn order from Royal Caribbean Cruises for the construction of a new Oasis-Class cruise ship.
STX's contract includes an option to build another cruise ship; the option would have to be taken within the year and the ship would be scheduled for delivery in 2018.
The new 16-deck, 2,700-cabin ship is part of Royal Caribbean's extensive programme of newbuild ship orders and vessel refurbishment; the company plans to invest between $700m and $1.3bn each year until the end of 2016.
Major expansion work is ongoing at Jebel Ali Port in the United Arab Emirates, with a major expansion of container terminal 2 and an $850m project to build a third container terminal.
DP World, which is carrying out the terminal 2 expansion, announced in January that it had completed the extension of the quay wall with the laying of the last of 2,752 65-ton blocks.
The expansion extends the wall from 400m to around 3,000m, allowing the terminal to accommodate six 15,000teu ships at the same time.
As the wind power market begins to pick up momentum and new offshore wind farms are installed around the world, demand is also rising for dedicated support vessels to carry out repair and maintenance work in remote and challenging marine environments.
UK-based shipbuilder Alicat Workboats is the latest beneficiary of this trend, having received an order from E.ON for the construction of four new wind farm support vessels.
The ships, which will be delivered from mid-2013 onwards, are set to be deployed to E.ON's Robin Rigg Wind Farm off the Solway Firth in the UK.
Piracy has become a significant risk for vessels operating in particular hotspots, such as the east and west coasts of Africa and some south-east Asian regions.
But new statistics from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), released in January, show that the piracy situation does seem to improving, supported by countermeasures like naval escorts, armed security guards and vigilant crew members.
IMB's report revealed that there were 297 pirate attacks in 2012, a significant drop from the 439 attacks that took place in 2011. IMB director Captain Pottengal Mukundan welcomed the positive statistics, but warned that crews need to remain extremely vigilant, as attacks are still a regular occurrence in some waters.
January brought some major orders from vessel operator Seaspan, the most recent being a contract awarded to Jiangsu New Yangzi Shipbuilding and Jiangsu Yangzi Xinfu Shipbuilding in China, to build four 10,000teu container ships.
The vessels, which will incorporate Seaspan's fuel-efficient SAVER design, are scheduled to be delivered in 2014.
Upon delivery they will be chartered to Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL). As part of the charter deal, Seaspan will also buy four 4,600teu second-hand container ships from MOL.
On top of these orders, Seaspan placed a $600m order earlier in January with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) for five ultra-large container ships, each of which will be able to carry 14,000teu of cargo.
Associated British Ports (ABP) is currently working on a £150m project to build a new quay at the Southampton docks container terminal by combining two existing berths.
As part of that project, ABP awarded a dredging contract to Boskalis Westminster to remove 450,000m³ of material from the port's navigation channel, widening it to improve accessibility and manoeuvrability for the larger container vessels that are expected after the project's completion.
Boskalis's dredger 'Manu Pekka' is carrying out the dredging work, and the dredged material will be transported to the licensed disposal site off the Isle of Wight by four barges from Malmo, Sweden.