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All of a sudden, the lights go out and there is no more electricity to power fridges, mechanical tools or medical equipment. In many developing countries with fragile infrastructures, sudden or scheduled power outages are a regular occurrence and put a strain on private households, businesses, or even pivotal facilities such as schools or hospitals.
The effect of chronic power shortages is often detrimental to economies as development is hampered, miring affected regions in a cycle of poverty. And where hospitals are concerned, the results are devastating when shortages lead to the avoidable deaths of patients. As the establishment of stable power grids usually takes years, Karpowership offers a solution in the form of Powerships.
Since 2009, Karpowership, a member of Karadeniz Holding based in Turkey, has been teaching power stations to swim and currently operates 13 Powerships with a total installed capacity exceeding 2,700 MW. Individual ships – converted from ballast transporters, heavy transport ships and barges –produce between 30 and 470 MW and relieve urgent electricity needs across the Middle East, South Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean. Currently, Karadeniz is the biggest company in the world offering serviced, Powershipbased power generation on a rental basis. While the idea dates back decades, Karadeniz has pioneered the commercial viability of the method. “We are not a very big group, but we are strong with regard to technology and construction.
We are working with more than one shipyard and have over 60 people working in our investment department. Design and all construction operations are completely done in-house. That is why we are the first and biggest Powership company,” says Gökhan Koçak, Head of Investment for Karadeniz. A set-up that has enabled Karadeniz to prosper in the face of challenges such as the sheer scale of investment and the technical proficiency needed to bring the numerous components together. Or such as converting ships so that they are prepared for the range of global environments they will operate in over their lifetime, from burning deserts off southern Iraq’s Basra coastline to the humid tropical jungle off Indonesia’s island chains.
While building a new power station may take years, the Powerships arrive within 120 days of signing the contract with no major building on site. Once in place, connected to the grid and fueled with natural gas or heavy fuel oil, they begin output immediately, supplying directly into the transmission network from their onboard high-voltage substations. Dozens of trained technicians, engineers, controllers and support staff work in eight-hour shifts and can live, eat and sleep aboard the ship or in accommodation close by for years. While the ships are almost plug-and-play, Karadeniz also places value on hiring local workers to supplement the crew aboard and thus help benefit the local economy with employment.
Many of the Powerships are equipped with engines manufactured by MAN Diesel & Turbo. “From the beginning we wanted to select engines with reliability and operation expansion, with the best services and technology. We can say that MAN has been a very good partner,” explains Koçak. He adds, “We have been working with MAN for more than eight years and have seen the engines are reliable, and when we compare them with other brands, technologically they are better, plus the service is so important.”
In the engine room of Karadeniz’s Orhan Bey the throb of the 11 massive MAN V51/60 18-cylinder dual-fuel engines, each the size of a double-decker bus, can be felt throughout the ship. Here plant manager Gürhan Gürsoy and Erol Deniz, country director for Karadeniz, with over 20 years as a chief engineer at sea, can monitor the numerous electronic units that feedback information from every corner of the ship. While the wider fleet of Powerships now in operation runs off a mix of engine makes, both Gürsoy and Deniz express their satisfaction with the MAN engines in use on the ships. “The engines are reliable and also have a good safety system,” Deniz explains, highlighting a recent incident in which the engine’s early warning systems alerted the staff to a developing issue. Deniz describes how they were able to check all the parameters and found some of the main bearing temperatures had increased slightly. Only by being able to compare this with the long-term trend were they able to spot the impending problem caused by a weakened part. “We initiated a stop on short call and investigated inside the engine and found the damage,” Deniz explains.
Accordingly, the problem was identified ahead of an issue, and the damaged part was extracted and replaced. It was at this point, Deniz says, that the close relationship Karadeniz and MAN have established came into play. “Their customer service and upkeep is amazing,” Deniz says. Within hours of being notified, MAN Diesel & Turbo had sprung into motion to get a replacement part flown to the site so that the engine could get back to work as quickly as possible.
Deniz explains that this was indicative of the ongoing relationship and aftersales care that MAN Diesel & Turbo provides. They also regularly inspect the engines in situ and work closely with the Karadeniz team to maintain the engine sets in top condition at all times.
Koçak further relates how the close relationship with the company and reliability of the MAN engines has placed the supplier at the center of Karadeniz’s global expansion. With 17 new Powerships of varying generating capacity set to roll off the slips at the Istanbul-based shipyards in the next few years, MAN Diesel & Turbo will be an important partner in the expansion of Karadeniz’s fleet.
While there have been concerns from experts over a possible slowdown in the global economy, led by a slackening in Chinese growth, Koçak explains that his company is unconcerned. “If economies are slowing, then their energy requirements will be less than expected, but in Africa or the Middle East they still need energy, not only for industrial purposes but also for their domestic requirement. So this is the market that we are focusing on, not China or Germany,” Koçak said. The majority of Karadeniz’s clients have been nations with rapidly expanding power needs that want to bridge gaps while power stations are built. However, the relatively short-term life of contracts and Karadeniz’ ability to quickly deliver, supply and leave again means there are also new market opportunities beyond the current area of operations in developing countries. Koçak points to a contract under discussion with the UK government to supply three Powerships with MAN installed engines, a first working in an advanced industrialized economy.
Gökhan Koçak, Head of Investment for Karadeniz
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