Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Biggest Ships in the World

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1. Freedom Ship
- a futuristic dream that just might come true

I remember seeing similar illustrations in some vintage popular science and sci-fi publications, depicting the floating city concept in a truly mind-boggling way. I did not think for a minute that I might live to see these projects given serious consideration and being actually on a brink of being built.

According to the official site the projected "Freedom Ship" may look something like this:

(image credit: Freedom Ship)

Imagine a mile-long stretch of 25-story-tall buildings in New York City; now imagine that floating on the water.

"The Freedom Ship has little in common with a conventional ship; it is actually nothing more than a big barge...But what if this tremendous barge was assigned a voyage that required slowly cruising around the world, hugging the shoreline, and completing one revolution every 3 years?" There is even talk about making this city an independent country.

Incidentally, the "Freedom Ship" will possibly also be the largest man-made structure on Earth, which puts it in the same category as the Tower of Babel. It will be extremely vulnerable to a spectacular downfall, even if miraculously built (the last update on the site is from February 2005, when everything still revolved around financing) For now we can just dream on, looking at the pictures:

Notice the similarity of the above concept with the 1928 model of an airport on top of a giant building! Los Angeles architects expected private planes to replace automobiles in a near future; hence this 300m-long roof-top airstrip:

Cruise Ships, Cruise Travel
(image via)

Or check out these futuristic "Airport Docks for New York" dreamed up by architect Harry B. Brainerd:

(image credit: Modern Mechanix)

Misperception: "Freedom Ship" aircraft flight deck can accept 747 aircraft.
Facts: The largest aircraft this flight deck can accept are turboprop aircraft in the 38 to 40-passenger range. (Oh well, here goes the "wow" factor...)
More on this titanic undertaking here and
here, where you can also trace the evolution of its design.

2. More Cruise Ship Concepts:
some of them will dwarf any other ship in existence

- Kvaerner Masa-Yards' Super-Large Cruise Ship (on the left) and The Nova, a Panamax-Max ship displacing more than 100,000 GT (on the right):

Read more about the trend of increasing cruise ship sizes here

- This article speaks about "Project Genesis" - Royal Caribbean's largest-ever cruise ship with capacity of 5,400 passengers:

To give you an idea of modern cruise ships' scale, here's comparison with the Statue of Liberty:

Cruise Ships, Cruise Travel

The new liner (due sometime in 2009), code-named "Project Genesis", will dwarf the "Freedom of the Seas", measuring 220,000 tons (about 100,000 tons based on displacement — a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier comes in at about 97,000 tons)

3. The Biggest Ships Ever Constructed - Supertankers Extraordinaire!

The biggest ships ever constructed were four supertankers built in France at the end of the seventies, having a 555.000 DWT and a 414 meters length. They launched from the shipyard Chantiers de l'Atlantique at Saint Nazaire. The only larger ship was the jumboized "Knock Nevis"; ex "Jahre Viking", ex "Seawise Giant", ex "Porthos", in 1981 (see entry in Part 2). However, the Batillus class had the greater gross tonnage per ship, and it could be argued that they were, in fact, larger than the Knock Nevis.

* Batillus, built in 1976, scrapped in 1985.
* Bellamya, built in 1976, scrapped in 1986.
* Pierre Guillaumat, built in 1977, scrapped in 1983.
* Prairial, built in 1979,
(also as "Hellas Fos" and "Sea Giant") scrapped in 2003

So here is "Pierre Guillaumat" - Biggest Ship Ever Constructed:

(Source: Photo collections Didier Pinçon and Ed Keefe)

By the way, this is why it's not a good idea to build bigger ships, if you want them to be able to cross canals: ("Scraaaape!")

(original unknown)

4. Supertanker Knock Nevis/ Jahre Viking - big ship with a big story

(Photo collection Dag Bjerke, via Supertankers)

This is the king of all supertankers, and possibly the biggest ship ever constructed (see French tankers on page 1, competing for this title). However, it is certainly the BIGGEST SHIP still in operation (albeit as a "floating storage and offloading unit" only). There is also a larger-than-life story associated with that ship.

First of all, it had more pseudonyms than Alexandre Dumas:
- "Seawise Giant"
- "Porthos"
- "Happy Giant"
- "Jahre Viking"
- "Knock Nevis"

Built in Japan in 1979 for a Greek shipping magnate, who went bankrupt shortly thereafter, she was sold to the Hong Kong owner, who promptly increased her length even more. In 1981 "The Seawise Giant" was born, biggest among ships.

To give you some idea of her size, compare with London's Tower Bridge:

Cruise Ships, Cruise Travel

... with Empire State Building and Eiffel Tower:

At first, she operated between the Middle East and the USA but from about 1986 she was used as a floating storage ship and transhipment terminal in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. In May, 1988, the ship was attacked and heavily damaged by bombs dropped from Iraqi jets while lying at the Iranian Hormuz terminal in the Strait of Hormuz. Check out the fire and damage photos here. Extensively damaged, she sank in the shallow waters there.

But the story does not end here. Miraculously, she gained a second life and a full restoration! "The Sea Wise Giant", or what remained of her, was bought by a Norwegian company, re-floated, and towed to the Keppel shipyard in Singapore. After major conversions and repairs she was relaunched in 1991 first as the "Happy Giant", and then as the "TT Jahre Viking". Here is a photo of restoration (click to enlarge):

In March 2004, the ship was sold again and sent by her new owner to the Dubai shipyard to be refitted as a floating storage and offloading unit (FSO). There, she was given her current name, "Knock Nevis". On the following photos we see her arrival at the docks - the final sea voyage of the great and legendary ship:

Sources: Wikipedia, The Tribune.

The Heart of a Giant

Take a look at the biggest diesel engine in the world: such technological marvels are required to move the huge ships as Knock Nevis, or Emma Maersk (discussed in Part 3)

Cruise Ships, Cruise Travel
Cruise Ships, Cruise Travel

5. Huge Container Ships Harass Small Tugboats
(a steamy tale of intimidation in a port)

but first let's see what makes big ships "tick":
The Largest Diesel Engine in the World

The pictures of a huge engine at the end of part 2 generated quite an interest, so I decided to give a proper info on that colossal beast:

Cruise Ship, Transportation

The name is Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C turbocharged diesel engine:
it has 14 cylinders
Output Power is 80,080 kW or 108,920 bhp.
(your Jeep may have 300 bhp)
width 26,7 meters, height 13,2 meters
(a small apartment building)

Cruise Ship, Transportation

Currently the company is considering an 18-cylinder version.
Here is how the pistons look (they are 1-meter each in diameter)

Cruise Ship, Transportation

A piston & piston rod assembly:
Cruise Ship, Transportation

another image of the crankshaft:
Cruise Ship, Transportation

For more info there is an Wikipedia entry, and Wartsila's site. Also there is an excellent overview article here

Smaller versions of these engines were installed on various supertankers and giant cargo ships before:
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation
(they are also adapting them for the interstellar Enterprise-type vessels to battle Klingons more effectively)
But more recently, in September 2006 huge 14-cylinder diesel engine was put into service aboard "Emma Maersk":

Witness "EMMA MAERSK" - The Biggest Container Ship in the World

My website layout does not allow to show the full length of these photos, to give that ship full credit. So make sure you click on the source gallery
(the bigger the monitor you have the better)

Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Images courtesy: Jesper T Andersen

Crowds watch the arrival of the huge vessel in Rotterdam. The ship can carry between 11,000 and 14,500 containers and is 400 meters long. (Empire State Building is 445 meters high)

Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Photo by Christian Hansen

Serious size and muscle there, you have to admit. Slightly smaller ship
"MSC Pamela" looks almost as imposing:
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation

To give you better idea of scale...
Here are some pics that illustrate how big these ships are:

Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation

Speaking about ports and tugboats...

If in seaport, be careful around cargo cranes:
Cruise Ship, Transportation
(don't worry, I used Photoshop)

but this is real:
Cruise Ship, Transportation

...marvel at this group of people, who by-pass the cargo cranes entirely:
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation

...notice the various tugboats scuttling around, and remember to pay them proper respect, because
- they are often overworked:
Cruise Ship, Transportation

- they have to go against big ship wakes:
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation

- they're abused by the larger ships
(like a little tug in this video, who did not see the ANCHOR coming)

Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation

Tugs come to the rescue when a larger ship catches the smaller one in a deadly grip: "The anchor chain from the sailboat caught over the bulb of the freighter. The saiboat was soon nearly dragged under the freighter." (Picture by Susan Wagner)
Cruise Ship, Transportation

And, for all their hard work, tugboats only end up crushed between the larger ships, if they are not nimble enough:
(photos of one such boat after being man-handled by a freighter)
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation
Cruise Ship, Transportation
(photo source: DutchPhotoZone)

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