Capable hands

Founded in late 2006, RollDock is a privately owned Dutch heavy lift shipping company. The majority shareholder of the company is Frans Van Seumeren, ex-CEO of Dutch heavy transport giant Mammoet, who is president of the supervisory board. Currently RollDock has eight multi-functional heavy transport vessels under construction with Larsen & Toubro in India. The first of these vessels, RollDock Sun, was launched in early January this year, with the complete fleet expected to be completed by 2013.

The fleet is designed to be as flexible as possible, to provide solutions for a range of situations and meet the changing demands of the heavy lift industry. Wout van der Zwan, managing director of RollDock, elaborates on the design of the new fleet: “The new vessels have three different loading modes built into them – roll-on roll-off (ro-ro), float-on float-off (flo-flo) and lift-on lift-off. We can accommodate ro-ro cargo weighing up to 4000 tonnes and can load the cargo at six different heights due to the adjustable nature of the ramp and decks. Because they are dock vessels we can semi-submerge them to a depth of more than six metres of water in the hold to allow cargo to be floated in and out. Finally the vessels are equipped with two cranes, each capable of lifting 350 tonnes, giving us a combined weight of 700 tonnes of lift-on liftoff cargo.”

Each vessel is designed to be identical to the rest of the fleet, allowing each one to be used for any contract and for RollDock to work in response to client demand. Once fully loaded the vessels can reach a speed of 18 knots and with a shallow draft of 5.6 metres (summer draft) can call at ports with low water depths. Due to the open hold capacity of each vessel the height of cargo transported is relatively unlimited. Since launching the RollDock Sun in January the company has been fully booked with the vessel now embarking on its eleventh journey.

Wout describes some of the contracts: “The RollDock Sun’s first seven voyages were for Exxon-Mobil transporting seven big furnaces, each weighing 2300 MT, and a number of accompanying pieces of equipment from Thailand to Singapore. After that she transported a 3000 tonne dredger from Noumea, New Caledonia to Port Hedland, Australia. We also transported a KILO-class submarine from Visakhaptnam, India to Severodvinsk in north Russia. After discharge of the submarine the vessel loaded a 400 tonne dredge in Rotterdam for delivery to Pakistan. Currently the vessel is in Dubai loading a dredging cargo for transportation to the Maldives.”

RollDock has developed a strong client base in a number of industries including oil and gas, petrochemical, offshore, engineering and construction, dredging, naval and power. This is due to its experienced staff who have extensive knowledge and insight within the industry and an awareness of the challenges of heavy lift transportation. RollDock operates its own in-house fleet management, sales, engineering and QHSE departments enabling it to offer a more complete package to clients. The fleet management division maintains the condition and compliance of the fleet so the vessels are always fit for purpose, and is responsible for the technical aspects of the new vessels currently under construction. Wout expands on these services: “Our in-house engineering department means we can deliver the engineering required for transportations including estimating how cargo will fit, loading options and all associated calculations such as strength, sea fastening, motion analyses, loading and unloading procedures and stowage. Having this in-house means we can provide a more professional service to meet clients’ demands.”

As well as its company base in the Netherlands, RollDock also operates a worldwide agency network from a number of sites around the globe including Japan, Korea, Singapore, Italy, France, the US, China, Australia and Spain. Although always aware of new market opportunities, RollDock’s main expansion plans are to continue to grow its fleet. “We’re in the process of building the eight new dock vessels, but following that we also have plans to build semi-submersible open wide-deck vessels. These would complement the dock type vessels and allow us to expand into new markets such as the transportation of rigs, bigger modules and float-over projects. When it comes to the transport of heavy lifts we operate in a niche market between the traditional heavy lift companies such as Jumbo, SAL and Big Lift, and the companies that operate semi submersible open wide deck vessels only, such as Dockwise, Cosco and OHT.”

With other industries beginning to recover from the financial downturn, the heavy lift industry is only now feeling the squeeze. “Currently the heavy lift market is weak and we expect it to be weaker next year. This is because the heavy lift market is historically at least a year behind the container and bulk markets. In the case of the recent financial crisis the container market felt the impact straight away with fewer transportations, but in the heavy lift market you’re transporting components of projects like the building of a refinery, and these projects that are in progress will be completed. However the industry is now feeling the effects of the downturn with new projects being delayed. Despite this we’ve had a very successful year with our first vessel, and being in a niche market gives us some advantage over the other heavy lift operators, which are oversaturated with tonnage,” says Wout.

Looking ahead, Wout concludes with RollDock’s future ambitions: “Our goal is to become a leading player within the heavy lift transportation industry and this has formed the way we have developed the company, with experienced personnel and complete solutions. We have ordered our first eight vessels, one of which has already been delivered and the others are following at a steady rate, with our second vessel, RollDock Sea, expected to arrive in January 2011.”

Extensive industry experience

New heavy transport vessel

Seven other vessels under construction