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Monday, May 16, 2011

Allision of Westerdam at Sitka – Cruise vessels, Ice breakers and Alaska

There is buzz of activity in RSA – people walking more than they ever did in the competition to do something resisting the global climate change – the Arctic challenge !  As we know, Arctic is the region located at the northern-most part of the Earth and  consists of the Arctic Ocean and all or parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost.  In this region, the average temperature of the warmest month is 10 °C (50 °F]

Sure have heard of Ice breaker – not the exercise intended in Groups to begin the process of people interacting with each other freely.  This is the warm up which could be start by sharing personal information – say the little known fact or making some statements.  

This is about the activity in Sitka – a city on Baranof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean in  U.S. state of Alaska.  In native language the name means  "People on the Outside of Shee".  This place is not  accessible by road.  There is an airport but delays in fall and winter are frequent.  Slower ferry travel is provided through the Alaska Marine Highway System. .  The tides of  the Straits  allow mainline vessels through only at slack tide and there is minimal service.   

It was otherwise in news last year when a   Texas company S2C Global Systems announced that it was moving forward with a plan to ship 2.9 billion to 9 billion gallons of fresh lake water a year from Sitka (Blue Lake) to the west coast of India.

Recently, there is news of US Coast Guard investigating reported collision of  936-foot  cruise ship Westerdam  with ice during its stop in Sitka.  The locals had celebrated the arrival of the large cruise ship and more than 100 ships are expected to call this summer besides smaller vessels.  Collision is more common term to describe the crashing of vessels.  A Maritime journal reported it as ‘an allision of Westerdam with Ice’.  The verb ‘allide’ in nautical terminology means ‘to impact a stationary object’  [I have never heard of this earlier !]

On 10th May 2011, the vessel while maneuvering through Yakutat Bay in Alaska struck ice and incurred hull damage.   Yakutat Bay is a 29 km  bay in Alaska.   It is reported that the vessel  Westerdam was reportedly maneuvering through ice near Hubbard Glacier when it sustained damage approximately 15 feet below the waterline. The hull was reportedly not breached and no injuries or pollution were reported. The Westerdam continued on her voyage to Sitka, where she was met by Coast Guard officials. The close to 2000 capacity passenger cruise belongs to Holland America.   

Ships move ahead by the pushes of propellers.  Propellers by rotations causes the water to move in astern direction. The rotation of the propeller creates thrust force.   Ships can have a single propeller or two – the twin ones are called twin screw ships.    But navigation on the ice in Polar regions would require specially constructed vessel and special navigational skills.   In ice-infested waters like Canada, Captains have to pay more attention to where, how much and what type of ice is in front of them. Going the wrong way can waste fuel, slow the ship down and be dangerous if the ship gets damaged or gets stuck in the ice.

There are purpose built vessels known as ‘ice-breakers’ which are  designed to move and navigate through ice-covered waters. These vessels would have: a strengthened hull, an ice-clearing shape, and the power to push through ice-covered waters. To pass through ice-covered water, an icebreaker uses its great momentum and power to drive its bow up onto the ice, breaking the ice under the immense weight of the ship. Because a buildup of broken ice in front of a ship can slow it down much more than the breaking of the ice itself, the speed of the ship is increased by having a specially designed hull to direct the broken ice around or under the vessel.

MS Westerdam is not an ice-breaker  but is a  Vista Class cruise ship. It is sister to the MS Oosterdam, MS Zuiderdam, and the MS Noordam. The names of the four ships translate to the four directions of the compass in Dutch. The ship was christened on April 25, 2004 in Venice, Italy by Dutch actress Renée Soutendijk.  Amsterdam born Reene was a former Olympian in Gymnastics.   The cruise vessel schedules visit to Alaska in summer, Panama canal in Spring and fall, and Caribbean in winter.  

The Vista class is a class of Panamax-type cruise ships, built by Fincantieri Marghera shipyard, in Italy. Vista class cruise ships are operated by Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, Cunard Line and Costa Cruises. The ships are equipped with a diesel-electric power plant and an Azipod propulsion system. Azipod is the registered brand name of the ABB Group for their azimuth thruster. Originally developed in Finland jointly by Kvaerner Masa-Yards dockyards and ABB, these are marine propulsion units consisting of electrically driven propellers mounted on a steerable pod.  Some facts of the ship :

Ship's Registry:  The Netherlands
Passenger capacity:  1,916
Crew members:  817
Gross Tonnage:  82,348 grt.
Length:  936 feet
Beam:  105.8 feet
Maximum speed:  24 knots

Regards – S. Sampathkumar

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sir, Yes allision is a new word to me also - Gupta