Houlder completes air lubrication system design for Vale

Houlder has completed the detailed design for an air lubrication system installation onboard the Sea Victoria. The vessel is a 325,000DWT Very Large Ore Carrier (VLOC) which is on long term charter to Vale A.S., the Brazilian mining company.

Silverstream appointed Houlder to assist with the concept design in early 2020 and was subsequently appointed by Vale to carry out the detailed integration design in December 2020, with installation commencing in May 2021. The team of experts provided a full package of work covering piping design, ventilation system, electrical and automation, as well as site supervision. Houlder has been working closely with Vale, the shipyard, and Silverstream, the air lubrication system provider, to ensure a smooth and efficient installation.

Pressure is mounting from all angles as the maritime industry moves towards decarbonisation. The adoption of innovative technologies is key to achieving targets and complying with environmental regulations, including EEXI and CII ratings. As it strives for net-zero, Vale has created an Ecoshipping programme in collaboration with various industry players to advance projects designed to reduce emissions from the maritime transportation of iron ore. This includes working with Norsepower, the leading global provider of auxiliary wind propulsion systems, which recently installed five Rotor Sails on a sister ship to the Sea Victoria, also chartered by Vale. The calculations show the installation will realise fuel savings of up to 8% and an annual reduction of up to 3,500 tons of CO2 for the vessel. This investment is in addition to the recent air lubrication system project with Silverstream, illustrating the diverse array of proven technologies available today which can be used alone or in combination with others.

Ben Myers, Project Director at Houlder, commented: “A first of type retrofit of any new technology will present some new technical challenges and requires an experienced design integration partner to ensure successful delivery during installation. The Houlder team ensures these challenges are addressed early on during the design stage which provides great comfort to the client and complimented by providing a high level of technical project management and communication expertise to ensure a trouble-free retrofit.

“Every shipping company that is committed to meeting the International Maritime Organization’s 2030 and 2050 emissions targets while safeguarding commercial success is exploring the raft of clean technologies available. Many of them offer promising results but it is essential to understand what is right for each vessel, which is why calculating exact savings is key to making the right choices at the right time. The retrofit or newbuild installation of these technologies requires investment of time and money, so being confident of a smooth process and favourable ROI is essential.”

Paulo Paixão, Senior Naval Architect at Vale, said: “Working with Houlder has proven the value of a detailed engineering expert. Investing significant time, effort and resource into this new technology is really exciting but it is a big commitment. Work together with a specialist design and engineering partner ensures we can fast track projects with confidence. We can’t wait to see the results of the Silverstream® System and are grateful to have such an integrated team of experts from shipyard, engineering and equipment supplier coming together to make this a success.”

Houlder provides independent and specialist expertise for shipowners exploring investment in green technologies to meet forthcoming emissions regulations. The Houlder team has market-leading knowledge of retrofitting clean technology, including air lubrication systems, and significant experience in supporting shipowners along the pathway to decarbonisation.


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“Charting a ‘solo’ course through this swirl of uncertainty is close to impossible. That’s why we’re often asked by clients to build their knowledge, evaluate their challenges and assess their options. We work closely with research funds and clean-tech providers by bringing decades of industry experience to bear. Our position is independent, technical ‘client friend’ for the decarbonising decades ahead.”


Rupert Hare, Chief Executive Officer