The Philippine Coast Guard formally took delivery of offshore patrol vessel BRP Gabriela Silang on 18 December 2019. The ship was built by French company Ocea at its Les Sables d’Olonne shipyard on France’s Atlantic coast. At 84m, this is the largest aluminium-monohull patrol vessel in the world. Thirty years’ experience in aluminium boat- and shipbuilding combined with related R&D have given the company the expertise to undertake this ambitious project. While aluminium offers widely acknowledged benefits, some feel that it is less suitable for larger vessels because they fear structural fatigue due to torsional loads. Ocea has overcome these challenges, confidently claiming that its large aluminium vessels are as rugged and reliable as steel ones. The secret? Thicker plating. In plain terms, Ocea uses ‘over-spec’ plating that is thicker than required by regulatory guidelines. This enables the company to guarantee hull reliability over longer lifetimes.
A longliner under construction in Ocea’s aluminium hull workshop at Les Sables d’Olonne (© Mer et Marine – Vincent Groizeleau)
The Gabriela Silang at Ocea’s Les Sables d’Olonne shipyard a few days before launching in July 2019 (© Ocea)
Lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
Aluminium has two key advantages over steel, namely that it does not rust and is much lighter. A lighter hull also means lower fuel consumption, hence reduced CO2 emissions. “The Gabriela Silang’s fuel consumption is 42% less than that of a comparable steel-hull vessel. The fact that the Philippine Coast Guard selected Ocea following a keenly contested international competition demonstrates that our bid was competitive and that our design meets the client’s operational needs in addition to meeting the PCG’s demands regarding sustainable development,” says Fabrice Weinbach, Ocea’s head of marketing and sales. With a fuel consumption that is over 40% lower than comparable vessels, the PCG’s operating costs will be radically lower throughout the OPV’s lifetime. And lower fuel consumption goes hand in hand with lower CO2 emissions. Ocea estimates that over the vessel’s first 20 years in service it will emit at least 20,000 tonnes less CO2. When talking to potential clients with strong environmental policies, Ocea has consistently found that a vessel’s lifetime CO2 emissions are increasingly important. This is, moreover, one of the main reasons that France’s Department of Maritime Affairs awarded its latest patrol vessel contract to Ocea. To objections that aluminium production results in high levels of pollution, the shipyard responds that lower long-term CO2 emissions far outweigh the environmental impact of using aluminium, particularly as the material c…
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