“You have to have the courage to try out something new,” as Niels Stolberg, CEO of Beluga Shipping comments.
And this is exactly what the business did when it became the first company in the world to use the wind-driven system ‘SkySails’ on a cargo vessel. This towing kite propulsion system provides relief to a ships engine, which in turn reduces fuel costs by ten to 15 per cent and also simultaneously protects the environment.
On 22nd of January 2008, the MV ‘Beluga SkySails’ started her maiden voyage from Bremerhaven in Germany to Guanta in Venezuela – travelling over 4612 sea miles to her first port of destination. The vessel has just left the port of Davant (USA) and set sail for the return to Europe. She is exploring a northern transatlantic route course east-northeast and is expected to enter two ports in Norway at the beginning of March – finally sealing the premiere of the SkySails-system in commercial operations. However, at the moment the voyages of MV ‘Beluga SkySails’ equal a “training camp on high seas” for the involved crew. The kite has been launched several times already, mainly for practical and testing reasons: calibrating, adjusting and setting up the system for safe and regular usage is the main goal at the first stage of this project. As the world’s first multi-purpose heavy-lift project carrier to use this outstanding concept for the alternative propulsion of merchant ships, MV ‘Beluga SkySails’ is copowered by wind energy using its 160 square metre kite. During 2008, the sail will be scaled up to 320 square metres – this will increase efficiency even further, resulting in potential fuel savings of 20 to 30 per cent.
The SkySails system consists of three simple components – a towing kite with a rope, a launch and recovery system, and a control system for automatic operations. Instead of a traditional sail fitted to a mast, SkySails uses large towing kites for the propulsion of the ship. Their shape is comparable to that of a paraglide. The kite’s profile is designed so that optimal aerodynamic effectiveness is produced at any wind speed.
In addition to the MV ‘Beluga SkySails’ vessel, two of the business’ other larger multi-purpose carriers within the Beluga P1 series will be equipped with SkySails systems once their construction is completed. These vessels will boast kites that have a sail area of 600 square metres. On this basis, fuel savings of approximately ten tonnes a day could be achieved.
The introduction of this new ecologically and environmentally friendly system has been developed as a response to increasing oil prices. According to world economic experts in this field, further price increases can be expected, whilst the volume of world trade will continue to grow. Utilising the towing kite propulsion system is a great sustainable way to overcome these issues.
The MV ‘Beluga SkySails’ has opened a new chapter in shipping history. This new vessel is proof that what many people thought was impossible is possible – reducing emissions, whilst lowering voyage costs. The vessel is a result of the pioneering spirit of Beluga Shipping – a company dedicated to improving the way it operates.
The Beluga Group, with headquarters in Bremen, Germany, operates on a worldwide basis as a specialist for the sound transportation of project and heavy-lift cargo. The organisation’s fleet of multi-purpose heavy-lift project carriers is fully available to its customers for any complex challenge in the marine transportation field. Furthermore, the company’s special-purpose vessels are state-of-the-art and distinctive for their powerful cranes, flexibility – due to adjustable tweendecks – and high service speed.
Beluga aims to be 100 per cent reliable, whilst providing high quality and safe operations, especially when transporting sensitive freight. Operating 365 days a year, the company has a highly qualified team, which provides it clients with a 24/7 service. As a result, the business achieves complete customer satisfaction.
Beluga Shipping GmbH functions as the umbrella organisation for the business activities of the Beluga Group. Beluga Shipping’s corporate management team develops strategic planning for the future of the Group, and also implements the various finance models. Furthermore, the majority of the services, including those for the two subsidiaries and the international branch offices, such as in human resources, marketing and accounting, are performed within Beluga Shipping.
Beluga Chartering carries out the core business of the Beluga Group – chartering its own fleet with project and heavy-lift cargo. This subsidiary has experts for every transport challenge – these employees handle the different operating factors of the vessels’ voyages. Furthermore, this area ensures maximum customer satisfaction and vessel employment at all times.
The second subsidiary, Beluga Fleet Management, is responsible for the crew on board the vessels, as well as any junior employees within the framework of the sea academy. Both of these subsidiaries are part of Beluga Shipping.
Since the foundation of the Beluga Group, the company has offered various training programmes, and in 2005 the sea academy was born. This academy can train up to 160 cadets per year. It uses innovative, tailor-made concepts on-board a fleet of six training vessels, which have been especially designed for this purpose and still conduct the commercial tramp shipping business that is a Beluga hallmark at the same time. For Beluga, training is essential for the future of the business. As a result, the company invests significantly in employee development to ensure today’s trainees become tomorrow’s qualified ship mechanics, engineers and captains.
From the very beginning, the business’ aim has been to remain close to its customers, therefore the company has strived to create a global network of sites. Over the years, Beluga has opened offices in nine different countries, including the Netherlands, the US, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Singapore, Great Britain and South Africa. Currently, the group has plans to establish a branch in Australia, which will enhance Beluga’s position as one of the leading shipping companies in the world.
By developing this worldwide presence, the business will soon be able to meet any shipping need, anywhere in the world. Furthermore, with a fleet of 54 vessels at the moment, the organisation’s new building programme continually updates Beluga’s fleet, which ensures the company meets the changing demands of the market. During September and October 2007, three new F-series vessels were delivered. The MV ‘Beluga Fantastic’, MV ‘Beluga Fighter’ and MV ‘Beluga Favourisation’ offer capacities of 12,744 tonnes.
The MV ‘Beluga Favourisation’ provides two cranes that are permanently installed on board the ship and in tandem usage can lift cargo weighing up to 240 tonnes, whereas the crane gear on board the MV ‘Beluga Fighter’ and MV ‘Beluga Fantastic’ is drafted for a combined 300 tonnes lifting capacity. These multi-purpose heavy-lift project carriers like the other Beluga vessels are designed and equipped in accordance to specific market requirements. They have been built in cooperation with the Chinese shipyards – Qingshan, Joangdong and Jiangzhou – and the Volharding shipyards in Harlingen, The Netherlands.
Alongside these vessels and the revolutionary MV ‘Beluga SkySails’, Beluga Shipping will launch about another dozen multi-purpose heavy-lift project carriers by the end of this year. By 2011, the shipping company plans to control 75 units on the ocean – a size regarded as optimum for serving the needs of the project and heavy lift market.
The organisation’s growing fleet, with an average age of three years, is amongst the most modern of its kind. The company’s carriers are now equipped with cargo handling gear that can lift a combinable load of up to 700 tonnes. These state-of-the-art vessels carry equipment such as wind energy converters, luxury yachts or buses, transformers and turbines, LNG cold boxes, plant modules, refinery equipment as well as general bulk or hazardous cargo. Thanks to their design, the ships are able to operate on challenging routes. All of these vessels combine large cargo carrying capacity with low fuel consumption. Looking to the future, a new generation of Beluga carriers will be entering the market. In 2008, multi-purpose heavy-lift project carriers with lifting capacities of 800 tonnes will be put into service. As from 2009, ships with a lifting capacity of up to 1400 tonnes will also be delivered.
Continued investment into its fleet allows Beluga to optimise the growing demand for shipping solutions in the marine industry. In a statement on the organisation’s website, Beluga founder and CEO Niels Stolberg explains: “Freight traffic in international waters is increasing at a substantial rate. In addition, equipment and industrial goods are getting more complex. Furthermore, the cost of transportation has become a significant factor for the competitiveness of the manufacturers of industrial goods. Globalisation has given rise to maritime transport providers, who are able to meet the growing demands of the shipping market and provide attractive service packages. We are specialists in this area and a reliable partner when it comes to tailored transportation solutions.
“We invested in a growing marketplace at an early stage and since the company was
established we have undertaken some significant developments. The Group’s worldwide activities are operated from our headquarters in Bremen. However, proximity to clients around the globe is guaranteed by our extensive network of branch offices and long-standing partnerships,” Niels continues.
He adds: “We respond quickly to market changes and demands, and always keep a close eye on current developments. Our customers profit greatly from this. However, what good would this be without the people to implement changes? We employ a team of highly motivated experts, both on and offshore. As a result, we develop individual solutions, reliably and quickly, and safely transport cargo to its desired location.”
As evidence of this, in September 2007 Beluga Shipping delivered seven rubber tyred gantry cranes (RTGs) from Zhangzhou, China, to Naples, Italy. On its way the MV ‘Beluga Emotion’ overcame two typhoons with six metre waves. Even this could not move the valuable cargo on deck – a demonstration of the perfect planning of Beluga’s engineering and chartering departments. The RTGs, each of them 30 metres long, 13 metres wide, 26 metres tall and with a weight of approximately 200 tonnes, had been fixed with about 700 lashings. On board, the captain could count on three additional experts and a second radar device to handle the constricted sight.
Beluga Shipping’s commitment to the industry goes far beyond its core business. Through its focus on corporate social responsibility, the Beluga Sea Academy was established in 2003. Moreover, the Beluga School for Life has been formed – a charity project that has provided tsunami victims in Thailand with a new home.
Managed by Niels Stolberg, the Beluga School for Life was opened in October 2006 in the village of Namkem – an extensively destroyed region north of Khao Lak in southern Thailand. Of the 4000 inhabitants living here, approximately 800 lost their lives. After the disaster, Niels traveled to the region and at the beginning of February 2005 he made the decision to invest 1.5 million euros in this development and then pledged to cover the operating costs for another ten years. As a result, over 120 orphans and adults have been homed.
Located on land formerly used as a coconut plantation, the new village includes fixed residential and classroom buildings for the children and adults, a kindergarten, a school, an amphitheatre for events and performances, training workshops, areas for growing fruit and vegetables, an information and visitors centre, and a guest section with bungalows, a restaurant and pool.
In addition to this project, Niels Stolberg is also a patron for the outpatient JONA children’s hospice in Bremen-Lesum, which was established in 2006. This hospice belongs to the Friedehorst Foundation and assists critically ill and severely disabled children. The Beluga Group also supports the START programme, which provides grants for children from families with a migration background.
With a forward-thinking attitude, the Beluga Shipping GmbH is now one of the top three players in the shipping industry. The company’s commitment to fulfilling its customers’ needs is unrivalled in the marketplace, whilst its focus on corporate responsibility has increased the reputation of the Beluga name throughout the world. Furthermore, the new SkySails system is the beginnings of a new era for shipping – the business now operates one of the most environmentally friendly vessels on the water. Looking to the future, the US and Canada are very important markets for the company, as they have excellent prospects for growth in the heavylift sector. With a state-of-the-art fleet and a highly experienced workforce, Beluga has the ability to overcome any complex challenge in the marine transportation sector.
Beluga Shipping GmbH
Services Heavy-lift cargo shipping