First of eight new F-type ships joins UHL fleet

First of eight new F-type ships joins UHL fleet

The 14,000-dwt UHL Flair, one of a series of "Eco-Lifters" under construction at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in China. Photo credit: UHL.

The multipurpose and heavy-lift (MPV/HL) segment has hesitated to order new ships in a long-moribund and over-tonnaged market, especially when looming carbon emissions regulations remain to be fleshed out. Hamburg-based carrier United Heavy Lift (UHL) is bucking this trend, however, with eight new heavy-lift F900 "Eco-Lifter" ships to be delivered in 2021 and 2022.  

The first of these ships, the Faith, is now on its maiden voyage from Asia to Europe — laden with containers, further testimony to the chaotic container market spilling cargo into the MPV/HL sector. Along with UHL, a raft of MPV/HL operators, including BBC Chartering and AAL, have been approached to transport containers amid a chronic global shortage of boxes and record, sky-high container rates.

Clients are turning to multipurpose vessels to get their containers moved, said Andreas Rolner, managing director of both United Heavy Transport and UHL.  

“It reminds me of 2003, when the heavy lift carriers loaded bulk cargoes and steel, as [these were] better paying than heavy-lift and project cargo,” said Lars Rolner, managing director of United Shipping Group, parent company of UHL, and Andreas's father. The heavy-lift market has been through a tough period in the past 10 years, and Lars Rolner told JOC.com he welcomes any sign that the market is slowly recovering. 

The new ships 

The 14,100-dwt Faith, which has a capacity of 1,001 TEU, arrives in Hamburg in February. It is the first of eight sister ships to be delivered to UHL by the CSSC shipbuilding group. The Faith was handed over by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in Shanghai on January 18.

The carbon footprint of these F900-class ships is 30 to 50 percent lower than the existing heavy lift fleet, Lars Bonnesen, UHL managing director, said in a company statement. The ships will be equipped with two 450-mt cranes and a weather deck totaling 2,990 square meters.

Five further vessels, including the UHL Freedom and the UHL Flare, will be delivered this year, with the remaining two ships set to enter the UHL fleet in 2022. The vessels are being chartered to UHL for 14 years by CSSC Leasing, UHL said. 

The new ships will join nine former Zeamarine F900 vessels that UHL took over in January 2020.

Wind impact

The MPV/HL market's upward trend is also driven by global growth in renewable energy, particularly the development of on- and offshore wind.  

“In the current market, my feeling is that while renewables have grown significantly, the oil and gas market has deteriorated at the same pace. But in general, we have an optimistic perspective. Our backlog on future bookings is also very positive,” said Andreas Rolner.

Among UHL’s latest wind energy-related projects is the transportation of 20 monopiles and 22 transition pieces from Rotterdam to Japan for the Akita Noshiro wind farm, Japan’s first large scale offshore wind energy development.

UHL Fame, one of the former Zeamarine F900 Eco-Lifter vessels, is currently heading to Japan via Singapore after loading the initial consignment of 14 monopile foundations in Rotterdam last month. 

While UHL is focused on the wind energy market, Andreas Rolner told JOC.com there are no plans to follow heavy lift operators such as OHT and SAL into the wind turbine installation vessel sector. “We have no ambitions to enter the installation market; our core competence is within transportation,” he said. 

However, United Wind Logistics, a sister company of UHL, is 50 percent owned by Fred. Olsen, a prominent installer of offshore wind turbines. “All in all, we work very closely with Fred. Olsen in order to offer turnkey transport and installation services to the offshore renewables clients,” Rolner said. 

Contact Keith Wallis at keithwallis@hotmail.com 

Senior Editor Janet Nodar contributed to this story. Contact her at janet.nodar@ihsmarkit.com and follow her on Twitter: @janet_nodar