Most precious cargo
-- FROM THE FULL PICTURE MAGAZINE -- Manoeuvring a passenger ferry in an archipelago of more than 6500 small islands requires precision and dependable equipment. That's why Viking Line chose Kongsberg Maritime to refit four of their seven passenger ferries.
Åland, an archipelago wedged between Sweden and Finland in the Northern Baltic, is a natural stop for passenger ferries travelling between the two countries or to Åland itself. As a result, Åland's major harbour in Mariehamn is exceptionally busy at all hours. For the passenger ferries of Viking Line, the crowded archipelago and port both require precision, a carefully planned schedule and reliable equipment.
"Our passenger ferries travelling between Sweden, Finland and Åland spend three hours in open waters. The rest of the journey takes place between our many islands. With all the traffic in this archipelago, it is vital that our ferries are not delayed and that they stay on the right track. This puts great demands on our systems," explains technical inspector in Viking Line, Børje Jansson.
Fifty years of expansion
Viking Line is celebrating its 50th year in business. It began operating on the 1st of June 1959 when the SS Viking undertook its maiden voyage. Even if the public initially viewed the ferries with scepticism , ferry traffic grew rapidly, creating a new link between the Finnish mainland, Åland and Sweden. Since its humble beginnings, Viking Line's traffic has increased dramatically and more than fifty vessels have sailed in their fleet. Today's fleet consists of seven passenger ferries – with an eighth on the way – satisfying various customer needs ranging from pleasure cruises to one-way passenger travel and cargo service. Apart from their latest, modern express ferry, the MS Viking XPRS from 2008, Viking Line's current vessels were built during the 1980s and 90s. When the time had come for an update, Kongsberg Maritime's systems were chosen for four of these vessels.
"The previous equipment onboard our ferries dated back to the 80s. Since then, a lot of the supplier's service expertise has disappeared, and getting the right spare parts is almost impossible. A refit of our ferries was vital, to provide them with modern, computerised equipment that has a longer lifespan and is easier to upgrade with new components. We chose Kongsberg Maritime partly because three of our ferries already had their equipment installed; this has proven to be a great success for all vessels," says Jansson.
While the refit projects for Amorella, Isabella and Gabriella took place between 2002 and 2008, the Mariella refit is still underway. Apart from Mariella, each of the vessels previously had an older Kongsberg system onboard (Datachief 7). During refit, this was replaced with the K-Chief 500 marine automation system for monitoring and control, including all pumps, controllers and valves, as well as control of the four main engines with clutch logic and a power management system. "Although our latest vessel in this series of refit contracts, Mariella, has equipment from a different supplier, our long history of good cooperation with Kongsberg made us choose them for this job as well," confirms Jansson.
A vote of confidence
Per Bruun, manager of Kongsberg Maritime's refit department, is pleased to have won contracts for all four of the vessels.
"Since four of Viking Line's vessels already had our equipment, it was a particularly important contract to win. The fact that we are also doing the refit on Mariella is a vote of confidence for us. In our experience, Viking Line has a competent crew from which we have also learned a lot," says Bruun.
The refit process usually starts with a site survey, followed up by an adaptation of the system according to the customer's needs. The installation itself is performed while the ship is in service or during docking, either by Kongsberg Maritime's specialist team of technicians or by the customer's own staff. For the Viking Line vessels, refit was performed during docking.
"Since these are passenger ferries, they have a docking time of only 10 to 14 days before they go straight back into traffic. This places great demands on our team to get the job done without the vessels being delayed. As a result we had 25 people, including hired electricians, working around the clock to get the job done in time," explains Bruun.
Refit for safety
Once the installation is complete, commissioning engineers ensure the systems work properly and take care of all necessary training.
"Because of the short time limit, most of the testing is performed during normal operation of the ship. Since the main part of the testing is performed prior to installation, at the production facilities of Kongsberg Maritime, testing during operations poses no safety challenge. When it comes to training of our staff, this is provided by Kongsberg Maritime both before the new equipment is installed and after installation," says Jansson.
With such a valuable freight, safety is a main concern for Viking Line. This is closely linked to the systems onboard and the staff's ability to operate it. Jan Ole Westerlund, chief electrician in Viking Line, explains how there is more focus on safety on today's vessels. "The equipment chosen for the operation of our vessels is vital for the safety of our passengers. This is why we have chosen stateof- the-art technology and equipment. With these new refits completed, even our oldest vessels are now updated to comply with the latest safety standards and regulations," says Westerlund, who was a vital contributor throughout the refit processes. He sees several advantages to the new equipment.
"Although the new equipment has basically the same functions as the old one, it has a higher degree of automation. Remote control operator stations on the bridge and in the engine room enable us to monitor the history of all events in the system for the last 24 hours. In my opinion, this is quite unique for Kongsberg Maritime's system and is something which none of their competitors have managed to the same degree," says Westerlund.
In addition to being a cost efficient alternative, refit increases the vessels' lifespan. Newer equipment also allows for optimal running of the engine, which means less fuel consumption. Environmental measures are important when performing refit of older vessels.
"New EU regulations impose all ships docking for more than two hours to use land power. Viking Line is in the forefront here, and our vessel Mariella has since 2005 been using land power for ventilation and lighting while at a standstill. On Gabriella we also have a fuel consumption mimic, which gives a better overview of the fuel consumed, enabling optimal operation of the vessel," says Jansson.
A new era of passenger traffic
The environmental considerations are only some of the changes that have occurred during the history of Viking Line. Since 1959, the size, service concepts and variety of onboard activities on their vessels have undergone dramatic changes. The newbuilding scheduled for completion in 2009/2010 is one way Viking Line strives to meet the demands of today's ferry passengers. Refits and modernisations of the rest of the fleet is another.
With these new changes, Viking Line's traffic has expanded considerably. In March this year, the company reported an increase in its short distance passenger travels between Mariehamn and Kapellskär by 26 per cent. In April, they reported an increase of 29 per cent on passenger travel between Sweden and Åland compared to last year. Consequently, Viking Line remains the market leader for passenger traffic in Finland. With recent modernisation bringing all ferries up to the latest standard of operations, prolonging their lifespan by up to 20 years, Viking Line is refit for another 50 years of passenger traffic.