The pace of life in Lower Saxony, Germany is relaxed and slow, and a drive through the area, along the banks of the River Ems, will reveal miles of pastures, wetlands and farmland dotted with small towns and villages. But this week there’s a lot of excitement in this northwestern district as one of the world’s largest cruise ships makes its journey, or conveyance, from the shipbuilding town of Papenburg out to the North Sea.
The fuss is about Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International’s newest and most technologically advanced cruise ship, which was constructed at Meyer Werft, a family owned Papenburg-based shipyard. The conveyance is a unique process for ships built here, as Meyer Werft is unconventionally situated inland, along the banks of the River Ems, to avoid the impact of storms on the North Sea. This makes it necessary for ships to travel down the river to get to the sea.
“For hours we are actually taking the ship along this very, very tight channel where there is only about two to three feet of distance on each side between the ship and the river bank,” said Patrik Dahlgren, Vice President for Marine Operation at Royal Caribbean International. “We can’t set a firm date or time for the conveyance because it’s all timed with the tides and weather conditions to help balance the movements of the ship along the river.”
While the conveyance of ships is not new for Meyer Werft – the shipyard has been doing this since 1795 – there are plenty of challenges to having a successful conveyance, and Quantum of the Seas will be especially demanding due to the size of the ship.At 348 meters long (1,141.73 feet long), 41.4 meters wide (135.8 feet wide) and weighing in at 168,666 gross tons, this ship is the largest ever to go through conveyance.
“With Quantum being the largest ship that has ever been built at Meyer Werft, there are some power lines that need to be rerouted, and some bridges along the river actually have to be lifted out of the way with a crane to allow the ship to pass, including one that is used by one of the main railways into Holland,” continued Dahlgren.
Making the process even more of a spectacle, ships are conveyed backwards because it’s usually easier to maneuver them in reverse, and Quantum’s journey will be managed the same way. Thousands of revelers from the surrounding local villages along the 26 mile route typically gather at the river bank to watch and celebrate each ship’s distinct journey.
What happens once the ship completes the conveyance? Quantum of the Seas will dock in Eemshaven, The Netherlands, where she will begin a series of tests, called sea trials, to measure the vessel’s seaworthiness, as well as test things like speed, maneuverability, equipment and safety features.
Come November, crowds will once again line a river bank to catch a glimpse as Quantum passes by, only this time it will be as she sails through the New York harbor… and she’ll be sailing forward instead of in reverse.