Reminiscent of futuristic looking ships of the mid-20th Century, Japan's Kyokuyo Shipyard Corporation has been building ships that may one day grace all the oceans of the world.
Slightly odd at first sight, they soon resolve into purposeful yet elegant looks that could redefine how we perceive ship design.
One of the ships they have built, the NATORI recently achieved two awards, at the 17th Environment Awards and
Ship of the Year awards in Japan.
Imoto Lines, Ltd., owner of the container ship "Natori", won the "Award for Development of Technology that Reduces the Environmental Impact for Logistic Operations" at the 17th Logistics Environment Awards, organized by Japan Association for Logistics and Transport (JALoT). Natori is the world's first container carrier equipped with Kyokuyo's globally patented "SSS-bow (Semi-Spherically-Shaped-bow)" that was delivered last December to the shipowner. She is also the biggest coastal container feeder in Japan with a loading capacity of 540 TEU.
The Logistics Environment Awards is given to "the organizations, companies or individuals that contributed to healthy development of logistics in order to promote environmental preservation and enhance environmental awareness." The award committee recognized Natori's "excellent energy-saving performance achieved by innovative technologies" including the SSS-b and a high-efficiency propeller, as well as her contribution to the modal shift from road to sea as a unique large coastal feeder engaged in regular domestic service.
Natori was also named "Best Small Cargo Ship" Category winner for 2015 Ship of the Year Award. As the defending winner of the category (with a ship called Futaba from another shipbuilder), Imoto Lines. Ltd. received the same award in 2 consecutive years.
From the outside, clean lines and Kyokuyo's award-winning and patented SSS bow give the vessel a sleek modern look. The unique front-end shape is designed to save 5% of fuel consumption under average sea condition, by reducing the wind pressure by 30% compared with conventional hulls.
The bridge and accommodation area are smartly integrated into the fore-part to ensure better visibility and crew's comfort, by minimizing the impact of noise and vibration from the machinery. It also helps maximize the container loading efficiency. This arrangement has been seen on ships before, and indeed for many types the superstructure at the fore has become the norm, but this rounded sleekness has rarely been maintained as a standard.
The idea of semi-spherically shaped bow was conceived at the beginning of 2007.
When approached to build a car carrier for Nissan Motors Car Carriers Co Ltd, the shipbuilder proposed the new design and the owners accepted on trust that the design would lead to efficiencies. That ship, the City of St Petersburg went on to win Japan's Grand Prix Ship of the Year Award in 2010. The ship also won the Swedish ShipPax award as well.
Speaking after that vessel won its awards Kyokuyo's Corporate Officer and Design Division General Manager, Kenzo Kawahara said
"Behind her clean shape and lines, there are a lot of unseen efforts. Let's take her control room for example - we started with 3DCG simulations to find out the best arrangement of windows, navigation equipment, lights and air conditioner. We even needed to build mock-ups for certain parts."
"Talking about hull, to design fairing lines from spherical bow part to flat after part was challenging and exciting. Extra efforts were put to keep every equipment inside the hull as far as possible, to minimize wind resistance." continues Kawahara, "Closer cooperation with Production Division was also required to manufacture such an unprecedented vessel, to determine sizes of steel panels and the arrangement of structural members, for instance."
This latest award winning ship using these innovations, the Natori, is one of a fleet of ships operated by coastal shippers Imoto Lines, founded in 1973. They are based in Kobe, Japan.