Specialist welding is Uwira's bread and butter

Two kilometres of double-walled piping manufactured from special material is being led through the cramped spaces of a ship. The work is being completed to a demanding schedule but it also demands accuracy as each welding seam must withstand high pressure when the pipe is in use. That is why each day's work will be inspected using X-ray imaging and the final result will be checked by testing the pipes with a pressure of 1,200 bar.

Uwira putkisto2Pipes at the Stena Germanica vessel

This is the day-to-day work of Uwira's welders, who have been working on the Stena Germanica vessel since the beginning of the year. This was when the vessel's fuel system was adapted at the Vistal Stocznia Remontowa dock in Poland to make it suitable for use with methanol. In 2011, Uwira was involved in implementing the world's first LNG conversion, in which the fuel system of the Bit Viking vessel was adapted to make it suitable for use with liquid natural gas rather than heavy fuel oil. This work was carried out for Tarbit Shipping.

"Methanol and liquid natural gas require different storage and transportation conditions, so the jobs were different in that respect. Common features of both projects were careful planning, accurate implementation, cramped working conditions and a tight schedule," says Samuli Kuusisto, Managing Director of Uwira Oy, which belongs to the Leinolat Group based in Vaasa, Finland.

Systematic development work

Uwira specialises in pipes, storage tanks, pressurised containers and welding. It has systematically developed its own expertise throughout the 21st century. Previously, the majority of the company's work consisted of subcontracted basic welding assignments but by investing in expertise and specialisation, the company has been able to acquire customers who require specialist work, such as Stena Line.

Uwira's most important customers mainly operate in the oil and gas industry, the shipping and power plant industry, and in nuclear power plants. Additionally, Uwira manages demanding industrial projects, providing turn-key solutions from planning to installation and deployment.

"Making a welding seam always requires skilful manual work. A well made seam is provided with added value in the form of the sum of several factors. For example, it is important for piping on demanding seabed or nuclear power plant sites to be traceable. Expertise with special materials, safety and zero tolerance for errors also boost customer satisfaction," says Otto Lammi, who is responsible for production and development.

Uwira's motivated personnel are committed to their work and to improving their work, even though specialisation has been accompanied by additional requirements as well as changes to the content and nature of the work. In addition to knowledgeable, motivated personnel, Uwira's competitive strengths are the internal synergies within Leinolat Group and good, reliable partners.

Due to stricter emission requirements, ships will be required to use low-emission fuels such as methanol and gas, or to operate their engines at lower power and revise their timetables. The largest ship owners are planning to convert their ships to comply with the new regulations, so there will be enormous demand for Uwira's expertise in the future. Stena Line, a Swedish company, is planning to modernise the fuel systems of over 20 vessels within the next five years to make them suitable for use with methanol, a more environmentally friendly fuel.

"This is an excellent thing for us, as we are one of the few companies that has experience with LNG and methanol conversions for ships so we have the required specialist expertise," states Kuusisto.

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