Wallenius Wilhelmsen on Cold Lay-Up for Vessels
The Covid-19 crisis has impacted demand for cargo-carrying capacity globally, leading Wallenius Wilhelmsen to ‘cold lay-up’– temporarily taking some of its vessels out of service. But what does the process involve, and what does it take to get these ships riding the waves once again?
Overcapacity in Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s 123-vessel fleet is one of many effects the Covid-19 crisis has had on the supply chain. As a response to the drop in demand, they have taken steps to reduce their cargo-carrying capabilities, including the recycling of four ships and the redelivery of seven chartered vessels to tonnage providers.
Another option to make the fleet smaller is to ‘cold lay-up’ a ship – or temporarily take it out of service until demand picks up. Captain Filip Svensson, marine operations management, WW Ocean, explains how they do it.
Shipping volumes are lower due to factory closures and bottlenecks in the supply chain. Because WW Ocean are carrying fewer products, they have some vessels that are not required right now, but they want to be able to bring them back into operation when the time is right. These vessels are being put into cold lay-up – effectively mothballing them in a secure environment until they are needed again.
Ten WW Ocean vessels have been cold laid-up: seven in Norway and three in Malaysia. The company is evaluating whether an additional 10 vessels could be laid-up.
The vessel is at anchor in a secure harbour with no crew onboard, which reduces manning costs. The community at the harbour, which often includes ex-seafarers, looks after the vessel, performing regular inspection and maintenance, making sure rotating equipment is functioning, and that mooring lines and anchors are OK. It’s a bit like having a car that you don’t use – you don’t want it to go two years without the engine being started.
For these communities, a vessel arriving for cold lay-up is welcome economically. It provides employment for local people and for WW Ocean, it means the vessel is watched over 24-7.
One crucial factor is that the vessels are not prone to bad weather. In Norway, the fjords where WW Ocean is laying up vessels are protected by mountains and far from storms, and in Malaysia, they have chosen areas where they know there are unlikely to be typhoons. Bad weather could potentially mean the vessel dragging her anchor or losing mooring lines.
They have also chosen locations where they know trade will pick up again once things get back to normal. Southeast Asia and Europe are their preferred locations because they are sure cargo will start up on these routes again, from Asia to Europe and from Europe to Asia.
It can be difficult to secure space; getting ships into cold lay-up tends to work on a first come, first served basis. Some countries will prioritise their own ships.
It takes three to four weeks to restart a vessel that is in cold laid-up. The ship needs to be prepared for people to live onboard it again, this includes procuring stores for the crew such as food and fresh water. The freezers, cold rooms and lighting have to be started up.
Then they must start up the equipment on the bridge, in the engine room and cargo hold. The exact steps vary depending on the vessel type and how long it has been out of action.
The last time their vessels were cold laid-up was twelve years ago, during the financial crisis. The maritime industry is cyclical; business comes and goes. But this is the first time that all segments of their industry have been hit at the same time.
The shipping sector is still experiencing issues due to the closure of borders. Manufacturing is a global industry and their customers’ supply chains have been disrupted. However, things are improving day-by-day and they would hope to be able to bring the vessels back into service in the near future.
Source WW Ocean