-- FROM THE FULL PICTURE MAGAZINE --
Competing heavily with Singapore's and Korea's yard giants on offshore contracts
today, Yantai Raffles is already preparing for a future when other Chinese yards
are the major competition. And it is aiming to surpass them all.
Julian Chang, Executive Director – Yantai Raffles.
It's the kind of toy many yard directors probably dream about: A super crane
capable of lifting the weight of countless hopes, as much as millions of men. The
Yantai Raffles shipyard in Shandong Province, China unveiled "Taisun" – its super
crane – late last year after a year of construction.
The crane, which can lift 20,000 tons up to 70 meters high, is only one of a
number of pieces of infrastructure that Yantai Raffles believes will put it on a
different footing compared to its rivals in shipbuilding in Asia. These investments
include a deepwater port, a massive dry-dock, advanced CAD design tools and tight
relationships with key vendors.
"In the offshore business, in the short term, we're competing with Singapore
and Korea. Though we have a price and process advantage, we lack the same experience.
As we gain experience, we'll see more competition from China, but here we will have
an advantage due to our infrastructure investments and experience," said Yantai
Raffles' founder and Executive Chairman Brian Chang to Full Picture magazine.
Brian Chang, Executive Chairman and founder of Yantai Raffles, with Taisun.
The millions to be saved are not lives, but man-hours, and thus dollars as well.
With Taisun, Yantai Raffles can build a semi-submersible's pontoons and platform
with topsides at the same time at ground level, and then simply lift the one on
top of the other. The same principle applies to the construction of FPSO hull and
"The question we wanted to answer was this: How do you significantly reduce the
cost of building these kinds of offshore structures. Taisun is the answer. Because
we can build these sections at ground level, we get a tremendous advantage in terms
of safety, quality and cost," said Brian Chang's brother, Julian Chang – Yantai
Raffles' Group Executive Director. He estimates that the crane will save 2 million
man-hours in construction of one semi-submersible drilling rig.
Brian Chang estimates that – should any other Chinese shipyard choose to stake
out a similar course – Yantai Raffles has at least a three to four year advantage
in infrastructure investments. He states that Yantai Raffles presents a compelling
case for any operator looking to build large steel structures and large topsides
– anything that can benefit from a good-sized dry-dock and a massive crane, in fact.
The yard has had success winning orders for a series of DP2 and DP3 semi-submersible
drilling rigs, FPSO and FSO orders and a wide variety of offshore support vessels
and construction vessels. Among the yard's most noteworthy builds so far was the
world's first round FPSO, Piranema, for Sevan Marine. Frigstad Offshore and Awilco
Offshore have also both chosen Yantai Raffles to build sophisticated drilling rigs.
Smarter construction, partnering
Julian Chang points out that Yantai Raffles has invested in software systems
unique to commercial shipyards. Developed and adapted for Yantai Raffles in conjunction
with IBM and Dassault Systems, the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Shipbuilding
Solutions have only previously been used at naval shipyards.
"We've invested a lot in this system. We sit together with the client in the
design phase and ensure we're looking at and thinking of the same thing. For this
reason, we have really minimised change orders at Yantai Raffles," he said. One
builder of a yacht carrier wanted, for example, to add a swimming pool to the design,
and this was accommodated relatively painlessly.
Both brothers describe how close relationship with key technology vendors plays
into the yard's long-term strategy. For the time being, Kongsberg Maritime has a
half-dozen different projects ongoing at the Yantai Raffles shipyard, including
a massive semi-submersible drilling rig for Frigstad Offshore, a series of rigs
for Awilco Offshore and an assortment of other vessels.
"We believe that it is important to have a long-term approach to our key vendors.
The projects that we are doing are complex. By working with a familiar vendor, it
makes everything, including commissioning, more efficient. And, for Kongsberg, it's
more convenient to focus on many deliveries at fewer yards," said Brian Chang.
Yantai Raffles seeks to position itself ahead of national rivals in China, and
competitors throughout Asia, by combining sophisticated shipbuilding techniques
with China's low costs.
This massive crane can lift up to 20,000 mt to 70 meters, meaning it can lift
an entire deck box of a semi-submersible rig onto its pontoons. This exercise saves
countless man-hours, while increasing safety and quality.
The yard's revolving pedestal crane can lift 2,000 metric tons with a 30 meter
reach up to 95 meters high.
2 x 370 ton gantry cranes
Straddling the yard's assembly and fabrication areas, these two cranes are Yantai
Raffles' workhorses in the construction of blocks and sections.
The fully-automated warehouse allows one man to manage 4,000 pallets of equipment
This 205 by 45 meter dry-dock allows construction of offshore support vessels
Material Preparation Centre
Four CNC plasma cutters and electromagnetic gantry cranes means the yard can
produce 100,000 metric tons of steel per year.
Yantai Raffles is dredging its port to a depth of 18 meters, to allow installation
and pre-testing of thrusters in the yard.