By Brian Dunn

Fednav Limited, the largest international maritime bulk carrier in Canada, continues to expand its fleet, with the addition of six new energy efficient ice-class vessels. Fednav operates the largest fleet of ice-class vessels in the world, capable of navigating winter conditions in the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Baltic Sea and the Arctic. The 35,000-ton lakers will be built by Oshima Shipyard at its yard near Nagasaki, Japan, in partnership with Sumitomo Corporation, and will be delivered between 2015 and 2016. These new vessels are destined to become the flagships of Fednav’s fleet of over 80 ships, and represent Fednav’s confidence in the future of shipping in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System. The new vessels will consume 20 per cent less fuel and produce 20 per cent less nitrogen oxide emissions than vessels built by Oshima 10 years ago, which were then already considered as among the most fuel-efficient of their time.

Fednav decided to go with Oshima rather than go through a tender process, because of its long-standing relationship with the company. “Our relationship with Oshima dates back to around 1999 and we’ve always been interested in working with them,” said Marc Gagnon, Director of Government Relations at Fednav. “When they proposed the (20 per cent) efficiency specs, we couldn’t pass it up. These are third-generation vessels with new engines, new hull design and new propeller design. You couldn’t achieve a 20 per cent less fuel burn with a new engine alone.”

The ocean-going bulker vessels will carry cargo such as grain, steel, iron ore and sugar through the St. Lawrence Seaway to and from Great Lakes ports, and around the world.

In addition to ports of call where the company operates terminals, such as Hamilton, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Burns Harbor, Indiana, the vessels will also call on other ports along the Great Lakes such as Duluth/Superior, Thunder Bay, Detroit and Toledo, in addition to serving all of Fednav`s customers along the St. Lawrence.

“These are highly flexible vessels well-suited to ­international trade and adapted to the dimensions of the St. Lawrence Seaway. We already have one of the youngest fleets around with an average age of about 10 years,”

Mr. Gagnon noted. “These vessels will reduce that figure even more.”

The new highly energy-efficient ships will contribute significantly to Fednav’s objectives of reducing GHG emissions in its fleet. All of the vessels will receive the CLEAN-DESIGN notation from the DNV classification society. “The environment is one of our top priorities when we consider the design of a new vessel for the Great Lakes,” explained Paul Pathy, Fednav President and co-CEO, upon signing of the contract. “It is very important to us and also to our customers that our vessels not only respect, but exceed environmental regulations in Canada and worldwide.”

The six vessels are part of a series of 21 new ships being added to Fednav’s fleet since January 1, 2012. As previously reported, the Federal Sable, a bulk carrier of 37,200 dwt, joined the Fednav fleet in March. It was the first in a series of fifteen new vessels commissioned from Japanese and Chinese shipyards. Six ice-class vessels (including the Federal Sable) of 37,200 dwt were recently completed at the Ouhua Shipyard in China, and entered service in 2012. In addition, one 35,300-dwt bulk carrier was built by Oshima in Japan, and one was built at the Onomichi Dockyard in Japan. The latter two also entered service earlier in 2012. Moreover, Fednav has ordered four 55,000-dwt bulk carriers from Oshima, to be delivered between 2012 and 2014. The company will also acquire three other bulk carriers of 35,300 dwt from Oshima that will be in operation between 2012 and 2015.