We love technology, how things work, and digging in behind the scenes and so an important part of our trip around the world in a small boat has included stops to tour ice breakers, mines, manufacturing plants, container ships. We even tried our hands at the helm of a 5,000 HP tractor tug. Some highlights from this interest:
- Richards Bay Minerals
- Bell Equipment Factory Tour
- Australian Grand Prix
- On Board the Aurora Australis
- On Board the Hanjin Oslo
- On Board the Marion Dufresne
- 2015 Moth Worlds
- Team Oracle USA Foiling Camp
- Drone Arial Photography
- On Board the SL Herbert
- West Coast Wilderness Railway
- Superior Pak Factory Tour
Last summer I got a chance to tour the Holland America Westerdam. The Westerdam works the Seattle to Alaska route during the summer months and when I visited, the boat was docked at Pier 99 in Seattle. Each Sunday during the summer the ship arrives in and docks at 6am, the entire load of 1,848 passengers and tons of baggage are disembarked, a similar load is brought back on board, the ship is provisioned to keep the 1,848 passengers and 800 crew well fed and happy for a week, and somehow the ship leaves the dock at 4pm that afternoon. All this is done in only 10 hours on the dock. Just watching the logistics team at the dock is exciting.
The Westerdam is an impressive feat of engineering. It is powered by three V16 diesel engines each producing 15,400 hp and two V12 diesels producing 11,575hp each. It also has a GE LM2500 gas turbine producing a booming 18,760 hp by itself. The ship is a diesel electric design much like large train locomotives where the engines drive generators and the propulsion is via electric motors. This is very common in cruise ships and it allows them to adjust the number of engines running to match the combined hotel load (the electric power required by the ship itself) and propulsion for increased efficiency. At high speeds, more engines are needed and at dock fewer are needed. It also allows engines to be taken out of service without impacting speed or the power available for on-board consumption. At some docks including the Seattle Pier 99 facility, power is supplied directly to the Westerdam via large cables so the engines don’t need to run at all, improving the air quality in the area.
The gas turbine on the Westerdam is a bit less common. It was installed when the Westerdam was built to ensure the ship would be in compliance with expected regulations disallowing any visible exhaust smoke. It didn’t end up being needed and, since the other 5 diesel engines are much more fuel efficient, they are used exclusively. The gas turbine is maintained and available if needed but, in normal operation, it is not used.
General Electric LM2500 gas turbine generator.
Injection lines and control system from the GE LM2500 gas turbine.
To propel and maneuver the ship, there are two Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) azipods at the stern capable of producing up to 24,000 hp each when operating forward. At full output, these engines will turn the props at 142 RPM and attain a ships speed of 24 kts (27.6 MPH). When maneuvering, the two props can be rotated through 360 degrees and, in this mode, output is limited to a still very high 13,500 hp each. At the bow of the ship, there are three bow thrusters to move the boat sideways while docking. These are also electric motors driving props and each can produce 2,500 hp.
The Westerdam is one of 11 Vista Class Cruise Ship and it was built by the Italian shipyard Fincantieri Marghera for Holland America Cruise Lines and it was delivered in 2004. The ship is a Panamax design so (just barely) capable of navigating the Panama Canal at 936′ long and 105.8′ wide. It draws up to 26′ and comes in at 81,811 gross tons.
Beside the ship, it’s absolutely massive but those that have been at the helm of even small boats, it really feels huge when seen from the bridge. The captain has to be incredibly precise to ease this nearly quarter-mile-long vessel up to the dock. And, to make things truly challenging, the passenger loading dock at Seattle’s Pier 99 doesn’t move so the boat has to nail the disembarkation mark precisely from 100s of feet away.
Looking across the breadth of the Westerdam bridge. It’s a very big boat.
Bridge Wing Thruster and Azipod controls
Bridge RADAR and ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System)
The view from the bridge wing is incredible. From here you are actually out over the dock in a part of the bridge that extends out beyond the side of the ship. It’s almost scary in that you standing on a glass floor surrounded by just about only glass with all the controls for the azipods and thrusters at hand. It is from here that the captain brings in the ship very carefully metering out thousands of potential hp to gently draw to a stop up against the dock. The combination of azipods and bow thrusters allow the ship to be docked without tug assistance. But one false move, and a few million dollars of damage will result. If you get a chance to watch a cruise ship docking, put binoculars on the bridge wing to see a master at work.
As an example of running the ship from the bridge wing, here’s is a shot of the bridge of a cruise ship passing closely beside us at Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. The captain had radioed us to assure us he was going to be careful and he inched past at less than 2 knots but so close we could talk to passengers on the lower decks without yelling.
Looking up to the bridge of the Sea Princess as the ship inches by us at Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska.
Thanks to the entire crew of the Westerdam, but especially the Captain for the detailed bridge tour and the Chief Officer who was incredibly generous with his time and really showed me the details of how the Westerdam worked. It’s an amazing ship.
- ms Westerdam: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_Westerdam
- Beyond Ships Westerdam Profile: http://www.beyondships.com/HAL-Westerdam.html
- Useless Westerdam Info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=864196
- Holland America Westerdam: http://www.hollandamerica.com/cruise-vacation-onboard/Westerdam