June 16, 2024

Understanding Ship Conversion: Making Existing Vessels fit New Roles History of Ship Conversion

Ship conversion  has taken place throughout maritime history as vessel owners sought to adapt their ships to new opportunities or regulations. Some of the earliest recorded conversions involved repurposing warships for peacetime trade after conflicts ended. In the 19th century, steam technology allowed early steamships to be converted from sail to engine power.

Drivers of Modern Ship Conversion
Several factors continue to drive ship conversion projects today. Commercial shipping companies may convert existing tonnage when cargo demand shifts between dry and liquid bulk trades. Rapid changes in environmental regulations have also prompted conversions to comply with new emission standards or phase-out timelines for single-hull tankers. Military forces regularly upgrade naval assets through rifle conversions to enhance capabilities.

Regulatory Considerations
Converting a ship is a complex process that requires carefully considering all applicable international and national regulations. Any alterations made to maintain a vessel’s seaworthiness and safety systems must be preapproved by classification societies. Maritime administrations must also certify any changes made to a ship’s particulars like its name, flag, construction details, or type of operation remain in compliance with requirements. Conversion projects involve rigorous engineering assessments and oversight.

Conversion Methods and Technical Challenges
Several common conversion methods are used depending on the degree of work needed to transform a vessel. Minor conversions focused on a ship’s systems or equipment may only require refits while more extensive changes to a vessel’s cargo type or operation involve more construction work. Some techniques include:

– Tank Removal and Structure Reinforcement: Necessary when converting between dry and liquid cargo carriage. Requires cutting out cargo tanks and strengthening hull areas.

– Engine/Propulsion System Upgrades: Converting between fuel types (LNG, biofuel), battery hybrid retrofits, or changing ship power depending on new operational profile.

– Deck and Cargo Hold Reconfiguration: Altering cargo handling gear, holds, and tank coating/lining based on new cargo specifications like bulk, breakbulk or container carriage.

– Passenger Accommodation Refurbishments: Converting pure cargo ships or ferries to also transport travelers involves rebuilding interior spaces for amenities.

While conversions aim to repurpose existing assets, engineers must overcome challenges associated with modifying vessels not originally designed for new functions. Areas like stability, structural integrity, machinery systems compatibility, and safety/emergency equipment all demand specialized solutions.

Case Studies in Notable Conversions
A few recent high-profile conversions exemplify this complex field:

– Cruise Ship Refit: In 2021, Carnival Cruise Line converted the 2,980 passenger Carnival Ecstasy into a dry goods carrier called the Mardi Gras. Extensive work reconfigured public areas, cabins, and rearrangement of over 800 containers of re-purposed materials.

-Product Tanker to FPSO: Norway-based Fred Olsen Energy converted the tanker Boa Galatea into a floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) unit through a $400 million conversion project adding oil production and storage equipment.

– Ro-Ro Cargo Ship Conversion: Danish firm Fjord Line redid the Baltic Queen ferry into a ro-ro cargo vessel. Changes saw the passenger decks stripped out with new side ramps, cargo access, and hull strengthening installed.

Future Outlook and Advancements
As Ship conversion  oil majors pursue emission reductions through conversion programs and sustainability mandates tighten, ship conversions are expected to grow in coming years. New technologies may also enable advances – 3D modeling now aids conversion planning while AI and robotics could assist with technical challenges. With climate change driving transitions across industries, conversions will remain an important strategy for extending ship service lives while adapting to changing economic and policy landscapes.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it