After more than two years at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard under construction, Koningsdam officially joined the fleet March 31. The ship sailed around the Mediterranean before heading up to Norway where it will spend most of the summer. Launching a newbuild is an exciting time, and Koningsdam debuted with a lot of innovations that already are a huge hit in the ship’s short time in service.
Getting to this point is an interesting road. Hotel Director Stan Kuppens was at the yard during construction, and he took time explain how a ship is built. It’s a complex process, and Stan breaks it down with some fabulous photos.
During the building of the ship, I decided to walk around in the yard to give you a better understanding of the building process. Fincantieri has 12 yards in Italy, of which Marghera (close to Venice) is one of them. It is not their biggest yard, however it is the yard where most of our HAL ships have been built.
Steel is supplied to the yard in large sheets. These steel sheets are cut by a laser computer in a huge terminal (about the size of 15 football fields next to each other). Ceiling plates are then welded together and placed on the floor. The laser-cut wall pieces are welded on top of the ceiling plates. The ceiling plates also receive re-enforcement and ceiling structure to hold pipes and other equipment.
The ship consists of millions of pieces of steel, some very large and others very small. Each piece is numbered and labeled as to where the piece belongs and to what part of the structure it needs to be attached. The sections are constructed upside-down, which is of course amazing considering the millions of “puzzle” pieces the ship consists of. They do this because all pipes and equipment are welded against the ceiling. Steel is too heavy to lift all of the pipes and equipment up to weld them against the ceiling. Therefore, they place the ceiling plates on the floor, weld the pieces, walls, pipes and equipment against it and then turn the entire section around before adding the section to the rest of the structure.
When the section has been assembled and reached the weight and height needed to be added to the rest of the structure, even larger cranes pick the piece up and add the section to the rest of the structure that had been previously placed inside the dry dock. This process continues until the entire steel structure has been assembled. For the larger pieces, two cranes are used. They do this because of weight limitations per crane and also for stability.
Because it is such delicate process, when sections are lowered in position it goes millimeter by millimeter. Fincantieri engineers are measuring the placing and are in constant communication with the cranes and staff on the structure. When the sections are aligned, they are welded together and become part of the structure. When this process is completed, the next section is lowered into the dry dock and the process starts all over again until the structure is done and becomes a ship.
The structure rests in the dry dock on cement/wooden blocks and will not fall over. The long yellow support bars are placed by pieces that have just been added and still need to be attached to the structure. This attaching is done on the larger sections by placing a rail directly next to the two sections and a welding computer welds the pieces together very slowly. As soon as this process is done, the yellow support bars are removed.
Here is the bow being added. As you can see, the steel plates have been treated in baths giving them this blue/purple color to protect them against rust. Where welding takes place, it damages this coating and rust will appear. The welding will be re-treated so that these seams will be rust-free. Since the bow will have a lot of water impact, it will be coated several more times and then receives a red paint color like the rest of the hull.
When the entire structure is complete, the dock is filled with water and the ship goes afloat. It is then tugged to a wet dock where the rest of the ship is completed.
Then of course the ship undergoes sea trials and finishing touches are completed before it makes its official debut.
The process of assembling the sections into a structure, and eventually a ship, takes — from the first section that goes into the dry dock until the structure is complete — only about eight months! The entire process from cutting the first piece of steel until delivery of the vessel takes about two years.
Who’s ready for the building of Nieuw Statendam to begin?! Follow along on the blog to see the ship’s construction progress.