The first Jinling freight ferry has now been delivered to DFDS. Read Jesper Aagesen’s exciting tale about the whole process from idea to delivery – a process that began with the establishment of his Newbuilding & Major Conversions department, and now has reached its first major milestone with the successful delivery of the largest-ever ship to join our fleet
By Jesper Aagesen, Director Newbuildings & Major Conversions
On 31 January 2019, DFDS took delivery of the first vessel in a series of six from Jinling Shipyard in China. The vessel itself deserves a lot of attention as it is “so much bigger” than any other Ro-Ro vessel we have had in our fleet so far. Until now, the largest Ro-Ro vessels have been the lengthened Flower Class vessels with a capacity of about 4650 lane metres, but these are now being overtaken by the Jinling-vessels’ 6700 lane metres!
In other ways this is also a milestone for the Newbuilding & Major Conversions Department. Since the establishment of the department back in 2015, the team has put huge efforts into this project. So let’s turn the clock back to 2015.
After screening the shipyard market, a decision was made to go to China at the beginning of 2016 to visit some of the potential shipyards. Jinling was one of them, and it is now exactly three years ago since we went there for the first time. To be honest, we did not know what to expect. It was January 2016; it was very cold, not only outside but also inside, where we had to wear winter coats all day during the meetings. However, we soon realised that Jinling had a good understanding of Ro-Ro vessels in general, and also of DFDS’ requirements. In addition, there was good chemistry between the two companies. Therefore, we decided to continue the discussions with Jinling over the coming months. In the early summer, a Letter of Intent (LOI) was signed, and both Jinling and DFDS began even more intensive discussions. This led to several meetings taking place, literally both day and night, and the climax was signing of a contract for two vessels on a late Friday evening on 30 September 2016.
Soon after, the project team started to get very busy, and people were recruited both internally and externally.
Jens Peter Baltsersen started on 1 January 2017 as Senior Project Manager with the primary task of looking after the Jinling project. During 2017, the design was further developed and detailed, and numerous meetings and visits took place. By August 2017, our site team was in place in China, and Jeppe Halkjær Pedersen and Michael Klysner could start their Chinese adventure when the first steel plate was cut.
In the meantime, the original two vessels had become four, and two more orders were added during 2018. In 2017 and 2018, we passed a number of milestones as you have read on The Bridge. It was therefore with a great deal of excitement that we went on sea trials with the first vessel in mid-January 2019. In general, the sea trials went well and better than we might have expected for the first vessel in a new series, and so we are also very pleased that we are able to take delivery now, just before China closes closing down for the Chinese New Year. The vessel will now make its way home via Singapore to the Mediterranean, where it will be put into service in the BU Med network to the benefit of DFDS and our customers.
So, three years after our very first visit at Jinling, we can now see the result, and we are pleased with what we see, and what we see is what we get: a huge and impressive vessel. As mentioned, we have five more vessels in the pipeline, so GOTHIA SEAWAYS is just the start. We have now been physically present at Jinling for 1½ years, but we will be staying there for almost two more years until the sixth vessel has been delivered in Q4 2020. And don’t forget: we have also Ro-Pax vessels to be built in China, due to be delivered in 2021 There are indeed exciting times ahead for us in Newbuilding & Major Conversions and of course for DFDS. We are very much looking forward to keeping you updated.
February 1, 2019