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VT Halmatic Steels Itself for Success

01 Nov 2004
The Spirit of Portsmouth arrives under tow in Portsmouth Harbour last month enroute to VT Halmatics Portchester yard for fitting out.

The Spirit of Portsmouth arrives under tow in Portsmouth Harbour last month enroute to VT Halmatics Portchester yard for fitting out.

Portchester UK based VT Halmatic , with a well established reputation as a builder of fibre reinforced plastic workboats, patrol craft, pilot boats, paramilitary vessels and vessel components mouldings, ventured into the marketplace for steel built vessels with an official launch of the Halmatic Steel Division at seawork2000 .

Formed to design and manufacture a range of steel commercial craft in standard hull designs ranging from 8 to 40m, the Steel Division builds in four separate categories: Ferries, Workboats, Patrol Boats, and Multi Role Vessels (MRVs).

The initial output of the Halmatic Steel Division has included tugs, MRVs and one ferry, the 23.5m Maid of the Harbour tourist excursion vessel operated in Poole Harbour UK by Brownsea Island Ferries.

This popular craft was seen in the September 2001 MJ and has become a regular feature at subsequent seawork exhibitions, where it serves as a floating meeting room for AGMs and other functions.

Many of these vessels have been built from steel cut and welded at Vosper Thornycroft's Woolston yard in Southampton, which closed earlier this year.

The closure was preceded by an orderly transition to the VT Group's new shipyard at Portsmouth Naval Base, which boasts a state of the art Production Hall equipped with an ISU Robotic profile cutting line. Although this major step forward from the labour intensive processes used at Woolston is now at the disposal of the VT Halmatic Steel Division, the fight with competitors building hulls in low wage countries has continued to provide a significant challenge.

Steel kits engineered by Dutch supplier Centraalstaal and delivered to Portchester were used to build the tugs Farset forD Ferran & Sons of Belfast and Prince Rock for the Cattewater Harbour Commissioners.

However, with its latest steel built boat the Halmatic Steel Division has taken a most significant step forward in addressing the issue of cost competitiveness once and for all. The hull and superstructure currently being fitted out in the main building shed at Portchester was built at Poland's Wisla yard in Gdansk, a part of the Navimor Group that also owns the Rementova yard. Halmatic made this choice after considerable research and careful consideration.

Yards in Holland, the UK, Lithuania, Romania and Russia were also visited and the final choice did not go to the cheapest option but rather to the yard offering the most outstanding match of quality with cost.

VT Halmatic's business development executive Ian Strugnell told MJ that outsourcing the hull and superstructure was essential for cost competitiveness and that the relationship with the Wisla yard, off to an excellent start on the evidence of this first collaboration, was likely to continue and expand to encompass other types of steel built vessels.

The current newbuild is the Spirit of Portsmouth , a 32.6m LOA ferry for the Portsmouth Harbour Ferry Company. It is based on the same Camarc design as a sister ship, Spirit of Gosport , built by Abels Shipbuilders Ltd in 2001 (see MJ , May 2001), but extends the seating capacity with a large covered upper deck and also lifts the wheelhouse one deck higher.

Forethought and preparation were key to the success of this collaboration. Recognising their own strengths in design, project management, and fitting out, VT Halmatic set their design office a huge input task during February to June of this year. More than 400 drawings articulated every detail of the build to follow during the summer and autumn.

CAD input has resulted in 95% of the pipe and hydraulic runs and ducts for cabling being placed during the build in Poland.

The intention to minimise, if not totally eliminate, all requirement for the cutting torch in Portchester has been realised.

Also provided by the Poles is some seven tons of stainless steel for railings, seat support structures and other fitments around the boat, all to a noticeably high standard. Also undertaken in Gdansk was painting of the hull and superstructure, supervised by International Paints' local inspectors, fitment of windows and doors as well as all the straightforward pipework in void spaces. Beds for the engines and internal workings of the Veth azimuthing propulsion units were also fitted in Poland, as were the external propulsor units.

That Wisla could actually build the vessel in only three months is a tribute to the thoroughness of advance planning and the effectiveness of a collaboration which saw a VT Halmatic team make five visits to Poland at key stages of the build.

Additionally, Polish Lloyds was in attendance throughout.

Spirit of Portsmouth was towed to Portsmouth Harbour last month by a Polish tug, with the onward tow to Portchester taken over by local operator Colin Butcher. It was taken into VT Halmatic's main shed where a substantial team was at work fitting out the craft when visited by MJ recently.

Among the tasks requiring completion is installation of Scania DI12 engines and Veth VZ2000 azimuthing drive units at either end of the vessel. The Scania DI12s are rated at 360hp, representing a small step up in power from from the 318 hp Scania DI9s fitted in Spirit of Gosport . The extra power will aid manoeuvring as the vessel makes its three minute repeated crossings of the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour and will also counteract the extra windage generated by the more expansive superstructure. The propulsion system will take the vessel to a design speed of 9 knots.

Special access routes are arranged to allow rapid removal and replacement of the engines and propulsor units. The seats for the propulsion units are identical to the Spirit of Gosport to allow interchangability of units. The electrical installation is being undertaken by the LEC Marine Group of Southampton.

Due for delivery in May 2005, Spirit of Portsmouth will have MCA Class 4,5 and 6 Passenger Certification for up to 300 passengers between Portsmouth and Gosport or 250 for cruise excursions within the confines of the Solent, for which another design departure from Spirit of Gosport is the addition of a bar and refreshments area.

With a proposed Light Rail Transit scheme to run trains through a tunnel under Portsmouth Harbour looking unlikely to materialise, extra capacity for the popular ferry service will be even more welcome. For the VT Halmatic Steel Division, Spirit of Portsmouth has even greater significance, marking a serious escalation of the company's quest to become a significant player in the European steel built workboat sector.

MJ Information No: 20018

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The Spirit of Portsmouth arrives under tow in Portsmouth Harbour last month enroute to VT Halmatics Portchester yard for fitting out. VT Halmatic Steels Itself for Success

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