By R. Bruce Striegler
We’re one of three tier-one partners with Seaspan, and beginning with the offshore fisheries science vessels, we’re responsible for engineering the systems that power and operate the ship including electrical propulsion, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), on-board electrical systems as well as ship-wide automation systems,” explains Stefan Nieuwenhuys, NSPS Program Manager for Imtech Marine Canada. He continues by saying that Imtech does the functional and production designs and then, with Seaspan, will install and commission the various systems.
Shipboard operating systems have become so technologically complex they now require specialized expertise in design, installation and maintenance so shipbuilders are increasingly turning to specialists such as Imtech to provide answers and solutions. Imtech Marine B.V. is a global marine system integrator company in the marine business since 1860 and with corporate headquarters in Rotterdam. The company has over 2,600 people worldwide in more than 90 offices. In Canada, Imtech Marine Canada Inc. operates in Vancouver and Halifax along with its Quebec City subsidiary Techsol. Formerly known as Radio Holland Canada, Imtech Marine has been active in the Canadian market for 22 years, focussing on communication and navigation systems and onboard services.
The NSPS program entails construction of a number of navy and coast guard research vessels, and Imtech Marine is involved in the non-combat section being built by Seaspan in Vancouver. The vessel compliment consists of three offshore fisheries science vessels (OFSV’s) that will conduct research into the fish stock and the development of local ecosystems along both the western and eastern coasts of Canada, an 85-metre offshore oceanographic science vessel that will conduct oceanographic research along Canada’s eastern coast, two joint support ships each having a length of 175 metres and a 140-metre polar icebreaker.
Mr. Nieuwenhuys describes the ships platform integration as a machinery control system that handles alarms from all equipment on the ship. Ship propoulsion is not through a conventional arrangement relying on a diesel engine with gearbox, shaft-line and propeller. “It’s a diesel engine connected to an alternator or generator which provides power to an electric motor and from there you have the shaft-line and propeller.” He says when designing systems, Imtech’s engineers continuously consider and balance benefits, costs and risks over the vessels entire life span.
“Integration has all to do with information,” says Nieuwenhuys when describing how complex control systems are designed. ”We look at preliminary vessel designs, talk extensively with the client, with Seaspan and other disciplines to best determine what is required. Much of this involves our previous project experience along with a full and proper requirement analysis which we then turn into technical solutions.” He notes that the off-shore fisheries science vessels are not large ships, but on a technical level, they are complicated ships due to the amount of specific equipment aboard.
Canadian marine suppliers still needed before construction
Mr. Nieuwenhyus spoke at an event held by Western Economic Diversification in April 2013 to educate Canadian business about the federal government’s defence-related procurement process, specifically for projects under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS). There, he told the crowd of business people that Imtech was looking for potential Canadian-based partners to expand their supply chain, companies who are involved in quality management programs. Today he says, “We received a very positive response from that day, we’ve repeated that call at various other meetings, and we are still looking for suppliers, we’re looking for Canadian partners.” He outlines some areas in which they still have specific needs, companies with integration systems experience, additional propulsion services or skills, and with components ranging from marine-related cables or lights. “Our aim is to fulfill as much local content as possible, to buy as much as we can locally and then integrate that here in Vancouver.”
He comments that one of the downsides of being a systems integrator is “that we can never build a ship faster than a shipyard. We always have to follow, and so we’re preparing for a construction start date beginning fourth quarter next year.” He says they are now into a functional design phase where the engineers examine and review specific details of various systems in order to have production packages ready before the start of construction. “We’ve made a selection of long lead items and systems that we will need to order by early next year, those items have our priorities but over the past few weeks we have gone over the entire integrated master schedule with Seaspan and the other partners just to make sure everything fits together.”
Stefan Nieuwenhuys says he has proudly worked with Imtech Marine for nearly twenty-five years, and his projects have covered five years on vessels for Britain’s Royal Navy, time in Malta building special transport ships and one he clearly relishes, “We were in the UAE for a time, where we converted an old Dutch frigate into a super yacht.” Before his Vancouver assignment, he was responsible for helping setting up the service and refit business for luxury yachts on the French Riviera. However he also says, “The Vancouver NSPS project appeals to me, it’s a great program and there are numerous opportunities. I’m very proud of this team, including Seaspan and the partners they’ve assembled and I’m very pleased to help set up the program here.”