The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) has recently taken delivery of the first VLCC vessels to be built in China. Chairman and managing director Mohammad Souri gives "thumbs up" to the Dalian New Shipyard, describing the vessels' quality and performance as "highly satisfactory and exceeding our expectations".
"This is a unique situation for us," explains Souri. "It is an opportunity for us to build ships exactly as we want them, from start to finish."
Dalian New Shipbuilding (DNS) is the first Chinese shipyard commissioned to build a very large crude carrier (VLCC). The shipyard is currently building a series of five vessels for NITC, three of which have already been delivered. All the vessels have been built to precise specifications, including forty-year global fatigue on the hulls. The designs are Korean supplied, with extensive assistance from DNV.
According to Souri, there were many factors influencing the choice of shipyard, including affordable local labour rates. But the deciding factor was that DNS allowed NITC the freedom to control the design of the ship.
A solid team
Souri explains, "One of the key reasons for the success of this project is the use of the same 15 member project team who had already worked together in Korea on NITC's Aframax and Suezmax newbuildings. Their experience, coordination and knowledge were key to making this project such a success.",
Echoing NITC chairman Souri's words, the company's technical project manager Parviz Sangin said NITC enjoys an excellent cooperation with the yard, a relationship that has benefited both parties. He attributes flexibility and control as underlying reasons for the positive working relationship with the yard.
While Sangin acknowledges that problems occurred during the newbuilding process and felt the yard might benefit from a more efficient organisational structure, he says NITC gained a lot from the experience. "Working with the Chinese over a period of several years has raised the level of our professional work techniques, experience which has enabled the whole building process to run more smoothly," said Sangin.
"As in most yards, efficiency could be improved, but the main key to success with foreign yards is to run control checks to monitor the degree of 'total understanding' of the project or task at hand," said Sangin. He was also quick to note the 'solid and reliable support' NITC received from DNV, a key factor to the successful series construction. "Some aspects of the ships are very complex, and DNV has given us the confidence to forge ahead with structural configurations which have not been used on ships of this size before."
Upgrading the fleet
NITC has been vigorously improving and modernising its tanker fleet in recent years in order to become more competitive in the oil transportation business, where double-hull tankers are now the preferred design for environmental reasons. In the past five years alone, NITC has ordered or built five Aframax, five Suezmax, ten VLCCs and five product carriers.
"By the end of our newbuilding programme in 2003, the average age of the company's tanker fleet will be less than four years," says NITC chairman Souri. "As a result, NITC will soon own and operate the most modern and efficient tanker fleet in the world."