Since August 2009, I was asigned to the Jan De Nul team, to help follow up the newbuilding of ultra dredger “Leiv Eiriksson”.
I came quite late in the process; the hull of the ship was completed, and outfitted with gantries, winches, cranes, pumps. The ship was launched two weeks after my arrival on the yard.
Other crewmembers were already on site one year, crawling through sections of the hull, examining every inch of welding, every square meter of paint,… menial work, but fundamental to a well-built ship.
Once the ship was launched, the truly interesting –and challenging job- began, outfitting, starting-up, things developed fast, becoming more and more complex by the day.
Once all the steelwork is done, hydraulic systems installed, electric cables pulled, all kinds of piping done, it takes months to start up the ship; check electric signals (some 4000 …), to check valves, pumps, subsystems one at a time, to start up complete systems, to let these systems talk to one another, through a jumble of networks,…
A question I've been often asked: "Do you have any input in the design ?”
A simple answer: "Forget it. What you see is what you get.”
This ship is designed in a much earlier stage.
Once the shipyard starts building, the design is fixed, detailed in hundreds of technical drawings, 500 pages of Owner’s specifications, and a signed contract with the shipyard refering to spec’s and drawings.
Any change from this contracted design will be “welcomed” with a huge price tag from the shipyard; after all: they are in this business to make some money, their logistics must be like clockwork, any change could disturb their planning.
Unless one has very obvious reasons to request a change in design , there won't be any.
Personal preferences like "I like pink paint here" or "We want to shift the radar displays over there" or “Can’t we get some extra piping here for extra functionality ?” are no-brainers.
Forget it, and move on.
In April 2010, Leiv Eiriksson, that huge steel contraption finally went to sea, for seatrials, 140 people onboard, living in tight quarters, in an accomodation designed for 46 crew.
During the trials, the Jan De Nul newbuilding team was small as ever; a fistful of crew, highly specialized in their jobs… a few technical managers…. The shipyard was still responsible for the ship, and we didn’t operate the vessel …. just to look on carefully….
It’s strange and exciting to wake up in the middle of the night, with speedtrials going on, to feel the ship’s vibrations, and to know that it is not only the biggest dredger in he world, but also the fastest… slicing through the waves at warp speed.
We sailed from
After three weeks we returned to
Late May, we dashed into the port of Bilbao, dredged a real BIG heap of sand, almost without a glitch, the odd sensor failed, a few alarms, a general succes, dashed out of port again, spent another 24 hours at sea, speedtrials with a loaded ship –about 100.000 ton – at a draught of 15 meter- at almost 20 knots-…
The next evening Leiv Eiriksson slipped into port again, at dusk, started rainbowing…. the ship was pinpointed ten metres from a stone quay, laying on dynamic positioning, and we unleashed 16 megawatt of raw power, …. unstoppable, inevitable, discharged the whole load .... and this time without a single glitch.
A project this size is not perfect, and don’t expect it to be: too many components, too many parties, too complex.
But everybody involved is convinced that Leiv Eiriksson is as good as it gets, not perfect, but certainly up to its job.
Delivery of the ship will be early June. The ship will be loaded to the gunwales with spare suction pipes, dragheads, food and 40 containers … a job that involves four cranes… Leiv Eiriksson will never be a small scale leisure operation…
Fairy-tale time is over.
Marc Van de Velde