NYK Steams Ahead

By Greg Trauthwein

Tokyo-based Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Group is not only one of the world’s largest ship owners with a diverse fleet of more than 800 ships, it is a growing global maritime logistics powerhouse. Maritime Reporter & Engineering News visited with Yasuo Tanaka, Senior Managing Corporate Officer, Naval Architect, in Tokyo for his insights on the company’s continued efforts to invest in operational efficiency.

The story of NYK cannot start without a look at the numbers, because the numbers tell the story in a most impressive fashion. (Note: The following numbers are taken from the company’s 2015 Annual Report as well as reported numbers as of April 2016). Founded September 29, 1885, from humble beginnings NYK has grown into a global goliath. It starts with $24 billion in revenue; 33,520 employees and 840 ships with an aggregate of more than 66,000,000 dwt. That fleet includes 408 Bulk Carriers, 123 Car Carriers, 104 Containerships and 68 Tankers, to name a few. And that’s just the maritime fleet. The Logistics business includes 484 distribution centers in 40 countries, a cumulative 2.25 million square meters of warehouse space, 23 container ports, 19 RoRo terminals and 18 aircraft.
It is this breadth and depth that has been central in the company’s ability to hold its own, particularly in recent years as markets have not been kind to ship owners, according to Tanaka. “Many ship operators this year are suffering, NYK is keeping its head above water.” Also, Tanaka credits the company’s overall mindset as integral to it maintain focus and continuity of quality of service in times good and bad. “Most important is we have to support our clients with a long-term view,” said Tanaka. “This helps us to be a better company, to provide better technology and creative solutions: Taking a long-term view is our mindset.
NYK & the “Super Eco Ship 2030”
Central to that long-term view is a concerted and intelligent investment in new technology, technology investment intended to not only make operations more efficient but also more environmentally friendly.
“I think the most important point is sustainability,” said Tanaka. “Global warming and environmental issues are at the forefront, and it is estimated that 4% of total Green House Gases are coming from shipping. Four percent is not a small number, and we must (as a shipping industry) do this ourselves. It is about transparency; it is about environmental responsibility.”
In the maritime sector, tech investment in the name of safety, the environment and efficiency has gained considerable traction in recent years, spurred mainly by legislation. But upgrading vessels in response to legislative mandate is only half the story, as true tech leaders in any sector help to blaze a technology trail with investment above and beyond that mandated. NYK is one such technology leader, as evidence by an impressive breadth and depth of technology investment and creation.
Testament to this is the Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), which was established by NYK Line in April 2004, and is a Tokyo-based research and development arm with 63 employees. “MTI was formed when top management of NYK identified environmental issues as the driving force for ship development and design,” said Tanaka. (“Monohakobi” roughly translates to “Quality Transport.”) (*Four R&D projects which NYK and MTI are jointly participating in were selected by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in Japan for “2016 Support Projects for R&D in Advanced Safety Technology of Vessels.” See related story on page 40).
NYK and MTI have taken a holistic approach to efficient and environmentally benign ship technology and design, with the introduction of a number of key developments that are far beyond the concept phase, including: 
  • Electronic Controlled engines
  • Wind-Powered Generators
  • Alternative Marine Power (AMP) {Shore Power}
  • Solar Power for ships
  • Air Lubrication system for propulsion efficiency
The culmination of these R&D efforts are real products and systems that being actively installed and used on working ships today. This is not simply research for the sake of research, with results emanating from test tank and computer simulation trials. The company does have its one “pie in the sky” ship shape, the NYK Future Ships or Super Eco Ship 2030 concept, which it utilizes as a base to showcase all of its new ship technology products. While the vessel is only a model, calculations suggest that the incorporation of multiple technologies, including: the Air Lubrication systems to reduce hull resistance; pre- and post-swirl appendages to improve propulsive efficiency; power plant efficiency with hybrid turbo charger and waste head recovery system; and NOx Reduction via SCR and EGR conspire to reduce CO2 by 69%.
LNG: The Future is Now
Today, LNG as fuel is a big issue for NYK, and last year the company received the first LNG-fueled tugboat in Tokyo Bay. On order for delivery later this year are a pair of LNG-fueled PCTC for operation in Europe at its UECC subsidiary. While NYK realizes the environmental and economic benefits of LNG-powered vessels in the long run, it also realizes the conundrum of steady fuel supply. 
To this end NYK can leverage its logistics expertise, and in tandem with the delivery of the PCTCs in Europe, it is simultaneously working toward developing an LNG supply business on the continent. “This is a very big topic for us this year,” Tanaka said.
While NYK has aggressively started to invest in ships fueled by LNG, as well as investing in the LNG bunkering infrastructure that still needs to be built globally to better facilitate the increasing mainstream use of this alternative fuel, LNG is a point of investment at NYK for other reasons, too. “At the moment LNG (is a big area of investment),” said Tanaka. “As a Japanese Shipping company, need for and importance of energy transportation will never end. Ever.”
Curretly NYK has 30 LNG tankers with another 10 LNG tankers on order, a fleet spike premised on the import of U.S. Shale Gas. While energy markets fluctuate wildly, NYK sees this as a prudent investment, as it has the luxury of working with Japanese utility companies on a long-term (10 to 15 year) contract basis. 
“The key really is the long-term contracts,” said Tanaka. “We ordered the vessels to handle the U.S. shale gas shipments, and more could be needed.”
Container Shipping
While NYK’s operations are diverse, it is a major player in two shipping sectors – the bulk market and the container shipping market – that have been particularly hard hit in recent years. But it is NYK’s fleet diversity that Tanaka counts as a major strength when evaluating new technologies for shipboard use, as it provides ample platforms to test new tech in a variety of circumstances, sharing the intelligence across the fleet.
“As a technical person, we have a wide range of vessels from very small to very large,” said Tanaka. “It helps to educate us on a wide variety of technology matters, and share technology across the spectrum.”
But when it comes to identifying the single technology that has had the greatest impact on ship efficiency over the course of his career, Tanaka could not limit the answer to a single technology, rather his study of efficiency in the container shipping segment as an example.
“I compared a containership built in 1980 with a containership built in 2010, comparing ships of the same size and dimension,” said Tanaka. In short Tanaka was out to determine the efficiency difference between two similar diesel engine-powered ships built 30 years apart, using the efficiency KPI, of the kg of fuel needed to move one TEU one mile. “Thirty years ago this number was 100 kg, and in 2010 is was less than 40 kg,” said Tanaka. In determining why the efficiency has improved so drastically, Tanaka concluded there were several factors with a significant hand in the equation:
  • Efficiency of the diesel engine itself has improved significantly; 
  • Computing calculations have improved, which allows many of the structural designs to be changed, allowing same size ships to accommodate more cargo: for example the same size container vessel built in 1980 that could carry about 2,000 containers in 2010 could carry nearly 4,000 containers.
  • The ship hull form, including the propeller, has been optimized for performance and efficiency.
Looking ahead, Tanaka said that NYK is laser-focus on improving the connectivity of ships, leveraging big data and the Internet of Things to facilitate the flow of information, and in turn use that information in a constructive way to optimize individual ship and entire fleet operations. But while many arrows point toward data management as the wave of the future, in the immediate future it still counts on physical alterations to ships as a viable alternative. For example, in the case of its containership fleet, NYK like the rest of the world has slowed down its vessels, bringing ships designed for speeds of 25 knots into the 16 to 18 knot range. But slowing down the ship is far more than throttling back, as the company has already engaged in (current plans call for an additional conversion of 40 ships) the replacement of bulbous bows and the additional of stabilization fins, technologies in total which have reduced consumption up to 20%/
NYK By the Numbers
Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Line
Head office: Tokyo, Japan
Founded: September 29, 1885
Business Scope:
  • Liner/Container Service
  • Tramp & Specialized Services
  • Tankers & Gas Carrier Serivces
  • Logistics Service
  • Terminal & Harbor Transport Services
  • Air Cargo Transport Service
  • Cruise Ship Service
  • Offshore Service
  • Employees: 33,520 (shoreside and Japanese Seafarers)
  • Revenues (FY 2014): $24 Billion
Logistics Business
Air Cargo / Aircraft: 18
Distribution Centers: 484 in 40 countries
Warehouse Space: 2,250,000 sq. m.
Terminals: 23 Container Ports, 19 RoRo Terminals, 6 ‘Other’ Terminals
Offshore Business
FPSO: 3 (off of Brazil)
Drill Ships: 1 (off of Brazil)
Shuttle Tankers: NYK/Knutsen 50/50 venture
The NYK Maritime Fleet
Type / # Vessels / DWT
Containerships / 104 / 5.99m
Bulk Carriers (Capesize) / 123 / 23.9m
Bulk Carriers (Panamax & Handy) / 285 / 17.4m
Woodchip Carriers / 48 / 2.6m
Cruise Ships / 1 / 10,000
Car Carriers / 123 / 2.2m
Tankers / 68 / 11.3m
LNG Carriers / 30 / 2.2m
Others / 48 / 765,815
TOTAL / 840* / 66,363,224
*Number as of April 2016
MTI Projects Recognized by MLIT
Four R&D projects which NYK and its Group company, the Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), are jointly participating in were selected by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in Japan for “2016 Support Projects for R&D in Advanced Safety Technology of Vessels.”
Safer and more economical vessel operation by leveraging IoT and Big Data is highly expected in the maritime industry. These projects are also being undertaken as joint research studies with ClassNK, a general incorporated foundation. Brief outlines of the four selected projects are provided below.
1) Study on monitoring the structural health of vessel hulls for very large containerships
Participating companies: NYK, MTI, and Japan Marine United Corporation
Outline: To prevent maritime accidents in advance, a new voyage-monitoring system under study measures and collects such data as bending moment and other forces affecting containership hulls, in addition to navigation records, weather, and marine conditions. By sharing, the data between on board crew and onshore staff, it makes possible to help navigational judgement and design more rational vessel, taking into consideration hull structural strength.
2) Study on utilizing Big Data to enhance safe, economical operations by prevention of vessel machinery plant trouble
Participating companies: Japan Marine United Corporation, NYK, MTI, Diesel United Ltd., Wärtsilä Japan Ltd., Sunflame Co. Ltd., Terasaki Electric Co. Ltd., and Mitsubishi Kakoki Kaisha Ltd.
Outline: Through collaborative work among shipbuilders, vessel-related manufacturers, and maritime companies, aiming to reduce vessel machinery plant accidents, especially high-risk accidents that have major societal and cost impacts, by taking advantage of Big Data.
3) Study on technology that supports safe LNG transport by utilizing ship-shore communications
Participating companies: NYK, MTI, and JRCS MFG. Co. Ltd.
Outline: Aiming to develop (1) forecasting technologies for LNG cargo movement and for monitoring vaporization activity in storage tanks during LNG carrier operations, and (2) other fundamental technologies for Big Data applications on LNG carriers.
4) Study on collision risk judgement & autonomous operation of vessels
Participating companies: NYK, MTI, Japan Marine Science Inc., National Maritime Research Institute MPAT, Furuno Electric Co. Ltd., Japan Radio Co. Ltd., and Tokyo Keiki Inc.
Outline: The study includes development of (a) functions to facilitate judgement related to avoiding risk of collision with other vessels; (b) remote operations by land operators during emergencies; and (c) devices related to AR(Augmented Reality)** of nautical instrument information.
1885 - Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha and Kyodo Unyu Kaisha merge on September 29 to form Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK); new company inaugurates operations on October 1 with a fleet of 58 steamships.
1893 - Japan's first long-distance liner service begins on Bombay route.
1914 - Tokushima Maru becomes first Japanese ship to pass through the newly completed Panama Canal.
1920 - New York branch opens.
1926 - Twin red stripes on white background becomes official funnel mark for NYK vessels.
1939 - NYK acquires Kinkai Yusen Kaisha Ltd.
1945 - Only 37 vessels, totaling 155,469 gross tons, remain after World War ll. (185 vessels totaling 1,131,424 gross tons lost in the war)
1951 - Main liner services resume.
1959 - Group's first crude oil tanker, Tamba Maru, launched.
1960 - Group's first iron ore tanker, Tobata Maru, launched.
1962 - World's first large LPG carrier, Bridgestone Maru, completed.
1964 - NYK and Mitsubishi Shipping Co. Ltd. merge to form a newly enlarged NYK Group.
1968 - Hakone Maru, Japan's first fully containerized ship, begins service on new California route.
1990 - Luxury cruise ship Crystal Harmony begins service as Group reenters cruise business.
1993 - First Japan-registered double-hull tanker, Takamine Maru, launched.
1994 - NYK Altair, a 4,800 TEU containership, launched.
1998 - NYK acquires Showa Line Co. Ltd.
2001 - Hinode Kisen Co. Ltd. becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of NYK and assumes responsibility for NYK's conventional ship business.
2004 - MTI (Monohakobi Technology Institute) established for the development of new technology.
2006 - NYK Vega, an 8,600 TEU containership, launched. Luxury cruise ship Asuka II launched.
2009 - Exploratory design for NYK Super Eco Ship 2030 released.
2010 - Group enters offshore shuttle tanker business by purchasing interest in Knutsen NYK Offshore Tankers AS.
2011 - Group participates in FPSO business (ultra-deep pre-salt layer off Brazil).
2012 - NYK's Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) becomes the first in the world to be certified by ClassNK.
2013 - NYK-Hinode Line Ltd. and NYK Global Bulk Corporation merge to form NYK Bulk & Projects Carriers Ltd.
2014 - Contract signed to construct two dual-fuel pure car and truck carriers (PCTCs) capable of using both marine fuel oil and LNG fuel.
2015 - Japan's first LNG-fueled tugboat, Sakigake, launched.
.. and today at NYK, the future is now ...
Earlier this year Japan Marine United Corporation delivered the 14,000 TEU container ship NYK Blue Jay, which is chartered by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), the first of 10 that the shipyard is building for NYK for operation on the Asia-European shipping lanes. 
While on the outside NYK Blue Jay may appear a standard containership, inside it is anything but standard as it houses a world first in marine power: a dual-rated Wärtsilä X82 diesel engine designed by Winterthur Gas & Diesel (WinGD) in Winterthur, Switzerland, and manufactured by Diesel United Ltd. in Japan, which means the engine and ship can respond more quickly to changing market conditions.
“This engine was originally designed for the VLCC tanker market. But with the change of the trading pattern in container shipping, with slower speeds, different engines were required. It became suitable for large containerships after a revision of certain technical features,” said Rolf Stiefel, Vice President Sales & Marketing, Winterthur Gas & Diesel Ltd. 
“By doing the revisions of these features we developed a dual rating, which is offering the ship owner the possibility to adapt the engine to different trade patterns (speed). With this dual rating we can also make the engine very fuel efficient at these slower speeds. That is the benefit we’re offering with this engine.”
In spite of its smaller capacity, the new container ship series is designed to be able to compete in terms of operating economy with new generation of ultra large container vessels carrying around 20,000TEU. The advanced propulsion concept includes a narrow dimensioned engine room allowing a hull design with exceptional hydrodynamic efficiency. And of course the central attraction is theWärtsilä brand Generation X two-stroke diesel engine, the 9-cylinder Wärtsilä X82.
Specifically designed and developed by WinGD to meet ship owners’ demands for the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO), the Generation X diesel and dual-fuel engines are conceived for maximized vessel payloads combined with low fuel consumption and emissions and for rational, economic production by WinGD’s licensees. 
“A holistic approach was taken when designing the Generation X engines,” said Rudolf Holtbecker, General Manager, Business & Application Development. “It is designed to enable total vessel efficiency to be optimized by a careful combination of main engine parameters and efficiency, the propulsion system and the ship hull. The capability to run lower engine speed fosters the higher efficiency of larger propellers. We took account of this in the engine design, like the Wärtsilä X82 used in the NYK Blue Jay, by employing higher stroke-to-bore ratios than in their predecessors. This not only facilitates the larger, slower turning propellers but also gives higher engine internal efficiency.”
As for the dual rating fearture of the Wärtsilä X82 Holtbecker said; “As we have seen in the recent past, ship owners wish to be able to respond to market conditions by having closer control over the fuel costs of their ships. In recent years this has led to owners operating their ships at lower speeds with engines running below their design ratings. With the X engines, the dual-rating option has been introduced to allow ship owners to use their engines either with a low or a high maximum power output, further improving fuel consumption in each operating mode without major modifications.”
The basis of the dual-rating feature of the X engines is WinGD’s ‘flex’ system of electronically controlled fuel injection and exhaust valve actuation, combined with turbochargers with very wide compressor maps. The sophisticated fuel injection and valve timing systems developed by WinGD allows the engine to be optimized for two different vessel operating profiles based primarily on changes of engine system settings. The owner thus has a tool to easily adapt the vessel speed for different market conditions, always ensuring the operation with the best possible performance and economy.
“You need an engine with an extraordinarily big rating field to be able to offer the benefit with the dual rating,” said Stiefel. 
“The X82B has the biggest rating field on the market. From a manufacutirng POV it makes no difference, but from an engineering point of view and a design POV it makes a difference. You need to study the different forces at the different load points on the engine, expeciallly the bearing train system to be capable to absorb these high powers at diff. engine rotations and speeds. That’s a more design issue.”
“To change the rating of the engine you need to modify the turbocharger insides,” said Stiefel. “So you would need to open the turbocharger and exchange the nozzle ring. It takes a few hours.  You would also adjust the compression ratio of the engine by adjusting the lengths of the piston rod. A small mechanical modification, which altogether can be accomplished in one or two days in a port. The rest would be some electronic control modifications.”
(As published in the September 2016 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News)


Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 34,  Sep 2016

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