Question: So, if you’re going to undock a containership, you absolutely need a tugboat to get behind it and push. But what do you do if you have a 333-meter-long ship that simply doesn’t leave enough room on its sides to let a tugboat slide by and reach the stern in its typical fashion?
Answer: Well, without further ado, you use a gantry crane to hoist the tugboat up, up and up until you finally get it over the more the 50-meter-high ship – and then you plop it back down in the water at the stern. After that, the little powerhouse of a boat can shove the big containership right out of the dock.
That’s exactly what happened on Saturday in South Korea, where five new ships are being built for Hapag-Lloyd. As amazing as it sounds, if truth be told, this ship-hopping feat was simply a matter of routine in the impressively large shipyard.
Last year in April, Hapag-Lloyd ordered the new “Valparaíso Express”-class ships, each with a capacity of 10,500 TEU, from Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries. Since February of this year, a team led by Norbert Zelck has been working on-site in the HSHI shipyard to supervise the construction process on behalf of Hapag-Lloyd.
The gantry crane hoisted the tugboat up and plopped it back down in the water at the stern.
Following the first steel cuttings and keel layings, the “Valparaíso Express” and the “Callao Express” have now been undocked – and, at least on the outside, they look almost finished. On Friday, during a brief ceremony held at the propeller under the stern of the first two ships, a bottle of soju (a strong Korean liquor) was shattered and those present signed their names onto the hull for perpetuity. During the night, water was allowed to fill the huge dock. And then, on Saturday, tugboats pulled the two ships out of the dock to a nearby outfitting pier, where the final construction phases will be completed – in particular, the interiors, the engines and the superstructures.
In Samho in South Korea five new ships are being built for Hapag-Lloyd.
Then, at the beginning of the current week, the keel will be laid for the third and fourth newbuildings of the series after the same dock has been emptied of water.
The five ships will be delivered to Hapag-Lloyd between this coming November and the spring of 2017, and plans call for them to be deployed on routes between the west coast of South America and Europe – thereby also sailing through the expanded locks of the Panama Canal. This schedule means that the newbuildings will go to sea right in time for the beginning of the harvest season in South America.
All involved people signed their names onto the hull for perpetuity. After that, water was allowed to fill the huge dock.
With 2,100 reefer plugs each, the ships can be put to optimal use. This will entail a maximum use of 40% of the total capacity of vessels with reefers.
The “Valparaíso Express” is scheduled to be christened in early December – in Chilean port city of Valparaíso, of course, which is home to the headquarters of Hapag-Lloyd’s Region South America.