Aker Tulcea sets the yardstick
The town of Tulcea is located in the southeastern part of Romania and is the capital of the county of the same name.
Part of the Dobrogea region that also includes the county of Constantza, Tulcea is the home to almost 100,000 inhabitants and is located in the northern part of the county at the gates of the Danube Delta.
Amongst the town’s biggest employers is Aker Tulcea, one of the youngest shipyards in Romania, which was acquired in 2000 by the Norwegian company Aker Brattvaag. This business offers a wide range of shipbuilding, ship repair and conversion services to customers including Aker Yards Brattvaag Norway, Aker Yards Langsten Norway, Aker Yards Aukra Norway and Aker Yards Soviknes Norway. In fact, around 93 per cent of its production is exported to the country of Norway.
The Aker Tulcea shipyard covers a site of over 75 hectares and boasts a Syncrolift system of 150m by 27m, a lifting capacity of 6500 tonnes and a launching speed of 22cm/minute. This capability enables the business to work with a huge variety of vessels including anchor handling and other types of vessels for the offshore industry, oil and chemical tankers, container vessels up to 1400 teu, multipurpose vessels, factory-freezer trawlers and coastal fishing vessels, and medium-sized ferries.
Upon its foundation in 1975, the company was recognised as one of the most modern shipyards in the Romanian shipbuilding industry. Aker Tulcea built upon these strong foundations and evolved quickly over its first 14 years in existence. Political and economical changes in Romania in 1989 had a major impact on the company’s progression, and in 1995 the shipyard made its first deliveries for the western market.
The company has expanded rapidly over the last three decades and is currently working on over 30 separate contracts concerned with the building of various types of vessels for the offshore industry. Combined, these deals are valued at over 290 million euros and all have delivery terms within 2008-2010.
Having joined the company in 1977, Dumitru Ivanov understands the Aker Tulcea business better than most. Since 1992 he has been the company’s general director. He begins by explaining how it has attained these various contracts: “Our experience of over 30 years in the field of shipbuilding and the confidence of foreign ship-owners in the quality of our performed works are key factors, as is our 13 years of experience in delivering vessels to the Western European market.”
To ensure the company remains at the forefront of this sector and attracts more contracts, Aker Tulcea is continually investing in its facilities. Dumitru explains further: “Our medium and long term strategies involve investments in the modernisation of facilities, re-organisation, developing partnerships, increased training for employees and improving working conditions with regards to ecological issues.”
He continues: “One of our main investments planned in 2008 is the new profile cutting line. This will improve the quality of the profile cutting process and also reduce the number of operators from the 14 to 15 people per shift that are currently used, to only three per shift. This will generate a reduction of 264 man-hours per day, or on average, 5800 man-hours per month. Reductions in manhours for this activity will be approximately 85 per cent, resulting in a saving of around 300,000 euros per year.”
In addition to this, there are a range of other substantial investments planned or in the pipeline. “In terms of planned investments, we are looking to upgrade our cranage equipment by purchasing three new 75-tonne cranes for our construction hall. We are also adding a new 150-tonne capacity multiwheeler and equipment for greater environmental protection. We are also planning to upgrade our Syncrolift, transfer system for vessels, and invest in our offices for the owner’s representatives,” comments Dumitru.
Among the other investments in the pipeline are improvements to the ventilation in the company’s production areas, enhancements to the power supply for repair, small berths and the outfitting quay, and the upgrading of the sandblasting halls to increase their capacity.
With the market demanding increasingly complex vessels and greater quality standards than ever before, Aker Tulcea’s overall strategy needs to be about much more than just investment into efficient equipment and tools.
And it is. The reorganisation of several production areas in order to increase productivity is one aim, while the business is also looking to find a number of new subcontracting companies to support its work. The ongoing training of personnel and the continual development of working and environmental protection standards support this.
Another major area of focus for Aker Tulcea is in terms of the environment, and the business is constantly looking at ways to minimise its energy consumption and reduce its overall impact.
The use of clean technologies is one way it is doing so. This incorporates the improvement of its metal coats workshop, the replacement of zinc coating technology based on cyanide, the treatment of cyanide waste, and the treating and ‘insolubilisation’ of the mud from the zinc coating process.
Reducing the impact of organic pollutants, particularly COV emissions, meanwhile is being achieved through the replacement of paints based on organic solvents with those based on water. The company also aims to reduce the risk of accidental release of the pollutants in water through permanent monitoring of the quality of used water (discharging holes) and below ground water (control wells) through its laboratory.
Reducing the emissions of dust in the atmosphere through blasting and painting in closed areas, and gradual replacement of the grit with metallic shots is another method that Aker Tulcea is embracing.
Managing the dangerous substances and replacing those that have an impact on the ozone layer is also crucial. Taking out of usage benzinoform (CCl4) and replacing the equipment with PCB and controlled elimination are central to this. Finally, managing waste through selective storage, reducing the overall wastage volume and the recovery of a significant quantity of waste (metal, wood, plastic, paper) also plays a key part in this strategy.
This commitment to the environment is not the only factor that differentiates Aker Tulcea from its competition, as Dumitru explains: “We are part of one of the biggest shipyards in Europe, have a high level of technology to assist us, can manufacture a wide range of vessels, and have the capacity to meet different ship-owners’ demands, from a quality and delivery terms point-of-view.”
Dumitru also believes that the company’s highly qualified workforce, efficient management, and high quality of works certified by international classification societies are key to its ongoing success. Concluding, he adds: “We have an order portfolio assured until 2010 and we are going to allocate all the material and human resources required in order to satisfy the needs of our customers going forward.”
Sites: Tulcea, Romania