Work is proceeding at pace on the new shipyard being built by IMI at Ras al-Khair on Saudi Arabia’s Gulf coast. When the yard starts to be operational from 2022, it will inevitably have a major impact on the regional shiprepair sector as it will be the biggest shipyard in the region, with a dedicated maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services zone capable of working on over 130 larger vessels, 116 offshore support vessels and 15 jack-up rigs a year.
The MRO zone will feature one large drydock, five portal cranes with lift capacities up to 100tonnes and the largest syncro ship lift facility in the Middle East, one of the largest in the world, with a lifting capacity of 31,200tonnes.
According to Julian Panter, IMI vice president, business development: “We will provide our customers and business partners with a range of innovative lifecycle management offerings, efficient schedules and internationally competitive prices.”
A joint venture between Saudi Aramco, Bahri, Lamprell and Hyundai Heavy Industries, the facility in Ras Al Khair started construction on site in 2016. Panter says: “We are currently moving nicely into our operational phase, with two rigs being built in Hamriyah for ARO and one VLCC being built in Korea for Bahri. These projects, which are being built in our technical partners shipyards, are enabling IMI and its people to build early operational capabilities prior to the teams transitioning to the Ras Al Khair facility in 2022. Undertaking the building of these projects prior to being operational in Ras Al Khair has also helped us cater to our clients’ needs and generate early revenue.”
At 12 million m² in total, the yard, which will also initially build tankers, offshore vessels and rigs, has
a vast amount of space, supported by infrastructure that enables it to handle a variety of vessels. IMI says it expects to repair a full range of commercial vessel types, including VLCCs, bulk carriers and offshore support vessels, as well as offshore jackup rigs. Panter adds: “In terms of target markets, we are looking to establish our presence and customer identification in the European market, as well as in other major international maritime sectors such as China and Japan, in the longer term. We will also cater for international companies that have local entities in the Gulf region."
A key focus for IMI is building partnerships with suppliers to offer customers a highly responsive, localised supply chain that reduces risk, lowers costs and speeds up response time. Panter comments: “We are looking to develop a business ecosystem, and it’s so important to us that this ecosystem is robust and sustainable. To encourage our suppliers to set up facilities here, we have built a complex adjacent to the yard.”
Working closely with leading marine software suppliers, including Aveva, IMI will also apply advanced digital solutions to manage, monitor and operate its ‘smart yard’. “State-of-the-art technologies including AI, biometrics and the Internet of Things are embedded into our yard’s infrastructure, offering a cutting-edge advantage in an era of digitalisation,” says Panter. He adds: “Our vision is to also become a global leader in sustainability. By using green products, materials and renewable energy sources, including solar and wind, we want to set the standard for sustainability in the global maritime industry, reducing carbon emissions and impact on marine life.”
IMI is also focused on supporting Saudi Arabia’s youth and is working with the National Maritime Academy (NMA) on a two-year training programme that provides a platform for young talent. A total of 625 trained apprentices are now working for IMI, with a further 660 in the training programme that covers a number of disciplines such as welding, electrical, fabrication and craftsmanship.