Damaged OOCL Brussels in troubled waters

Delivery of huge container vessel delayed until April after tail shaft damaged during tests

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 3:24am

A massive containership that was meant to be the pride of Orient Overseas Container Line is languishing in a South Korean shipyard facing expensive repairs.

The OOCL Brussels is one of 10 ships, and the first in OOCL logos, ordered by parent Orient Overseas (International) for US$1.36 billion in 2011.

The ship and its sister vessels will be the biggest in the company's fleet, capable of carrying 13,208 20-foot containers.

OOCL and Samsung Heavy Industries went ahead with a lavish dual-christening ceremony for OOCL Brussels and sister vessel NYK Helios on January 18, despite knowing that the delivery of OOCL Brussels would be delayed.

There were more than 80 guests, including Shiu Kuang-si, the president of Taiwan's Mega International Commercial Bank, Chartsiri Sophonpanich, the president of Bangkok Bank, and OOCL chief executive Andrew Tung Lieh-cheung.

The OOCL Brussels is a very complicated piece of machinery and it is now in the final stage of being prepared for delivery

The ship was to have entered service on OOCL's important Asia-Europe trades at the end of last month, but now would not be delivered by Samsung until March 26.

Delivery of the ship has been delayed after the tail shaft, which connects the engine to the propeller, was damaged during engine tests.

Kim Ho-kwon, Samsung's general manager, confirmed that two sections of tail shaft, including the aft section closest to the propeller, both of which are 14 metres long, were damaged by shipyard workers.

Speaking from Samsung's Geoje shipyard, Kim added that "another very small accident" involving shaft bearings took place while the shaft sections were being removed.

He said the cost of the damage, including the new shaft sections and labour, was still being assessed, but he said: "It is absolutely our responsibility."

Independent ship safety experts have confirmed reports of the damage.

Two Hong Kong ship management companies contacted by the South China Morning Post said the tail shaft was custom-made for each vessel so it was difficult to estimate the cost of repairs. But they said repairs could cost up to at least US$2.25 million, which should be covered by Samsung's insurers.

OOCL spokesman Mark Wong said: "The OOCL Brussels is a very complicated piece of machinery and it is now in the final stage of being prepared for delivery. With the slight delay in delivery, we plan to deploy the vessel in April."