Yesterday Royal Caribbean’s first Quantum Ultra class ship Spectrum of the Seas left Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg (Germany) to begin her conveyance up the River Ems to Eemshaven (Netherlands). The manoeuvre originally scheduled to start on Tuesday, was delayed due to bad weather.
The conveyance saw Spectrum of the Seas proceed in reverse up the river Ems to the North Sea. According to Meyer Werft, this has proven successful in the past as it makes it easier to manoeuvre the ship with the assistance of two tugs, while ensuring her propellers are kept in the middle of the river as she navigates the rivers tight twists and turns.
As I write Spectrum of the Seas is safely arriving in the port of Eemshaven where she will stay while preperations for her sea trials will continue. Following successful trials these she will head to Bremerhaven where final work will take place to prepare for her handover.
Designed and built specifically for the Chinese market once delivered she will head to Asia where she will offer a series of 3-4 night itineraries and home port in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
What is a conveyance?
The term conveyance is mostly associated with the property market and the process of transferring property from one owner to another, but for anyone that follows or is associated with the cruise industry it has another completely different meaning.
One of the world’s most successful cruise ship builders is Germany’s Meyer Werft, which with the delivery of Spectrum of the Seas will have built 48 cruise ships for a number of the world’s major cruise lines including AIDA, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean. Currently the German shipbuilder has another twelve cruise ships on order seeing it through to 2023.
Location, Location, Location
Unlike most of the world’s shipyards Meyer Werft is situated 32 miles inland, in the German city of Papenburg, in the district of Emsland in Lower Saxony. The inland location offers it some protection from the worst conditions of the North Sea has to offer but creates the unique problem of just how do you get a cruise ship from shipyard to ocean?
Construction of ships at Meyer Werft takes place is huge covered sheds known as “Dockhalles” the largest of which measures 504 meters long, 125 meters wide, has a height of 75 meters, and is the largest covered ship building dock in the world. This allows the yard to build up to three cruise ships a year and compete with larger Asian shipyards. Once the outer hull is completed, the ship is floated out of the hall into a basin, where work continues fitting out. The ships are floated out due to space constraints, which is less dramatic than old-fashioned way of launching a ship down the slipway into the water!
Prior to the conveyance, the river is prepared which involves dredging up to 24 feet where necessary. Although Meyer Werft can manipulate water levels, using tidal barriers along the river to ensure there is enough water underneath the ship but it does this sparingly for ecological reasons. It does however, close the barriers to keep the water level at high tide, the Ems is roughly 30 feet deep, which is just enough for Spectrum’s draft of 28 feet. With her dimensions of 348m x 49m, Spectrum is near the maximum size of ship that can be conveyed up the river and at its narrowest points, there is just a few centimetres clearance either side.
It is not just below the water that causes issues for the conveyance but above as well. Four bridges, three of which can be swung open to allow ships to pass, and the forth being a railroad bridge has to have a portion removed. Along the length of the Ems electricity cables are shut down in three locations that cross the river, this causes them to contract and rise thus allowing the ship to pass with clearance being a little as 1.8 metres.
Once ready for sea trials the conveyance up the river Ems can begin. With a distance of 32kms, the whole journey takes between ten to twelve hours and is dependent on weather conditions. A team of six river pilots from Emden are responsible for manoeuvring the ship to Eemshaven each with extensive knowledge of the river and having spent two weeks training in the conveyance using a computerized simulator in Wageningen (Netherlands). Working in teams of two for up to ninety minutes one pilot will guide the stern with the other guiding the guiding the bow. Rather than looking over the side of the ship, the pilots use a GPS navigation system accurate to within five centimetres and which provides forecasts the ships position in 30, 60 or 90 seconds if the steering course wasn’t changed. Assisting the pilots are navigation officers, the yard captain and the local German waterway authorities.
The incredible feat of engineering will happen again later this year when Norwegian Encore is delivered. So next time you are enjoying a cocktail onboard a cruise ship built in Papenburg take a moment to consider her journey from shipyard to sea.
Spectrum of the Seas Ship Fact file:
Hull No: S700
Class: Quantum Ultra
Building Cost: EUR 750 million (USD 940 million)
Ordered: May 2015
Keel laid 8th November 2017
Float out 25th February 2019
Gross Tonnage: 168,800
Width: 49m (max)
No of decks: 18 (16 passenger accessible)
Capacity: 4,905 (max occupancy)