Silversea Cruises is preparing to take delivery of the ‘Silver Origin’, from Dutch shipyard De Hoop, despite the global lockdown,
The cruise brand, part of Royal Caribbean, said that De Hoop implemented rigid safety procedures, reduced its workforce and devised ways to overcome challenges, including what is claimed to be a world-first during the ship’s sea trials.
On 15th March, 2020—four days after coronavirus was declared to be a global pandemic—the Netherlands implemented a national lockdown. Relatively isolated in Lobith, a remote corner of the Netherlands, De Hoop shipyard offered its 250 employees the option to cease working.
While many were forced to return to their families or to their country of origin before borders closed, about 200 employees—mainly skilled carpenters—opted to continue, working on the ship’s guest suites. Many employees were accommodated in an on-site residential facility, Barge Rossini, which had a reduced capacity from 200 to 100 for safety reasons.
In addition to the rigorous protocol imposed by the Dutch health authority, RIVM, De Hoop’s employees were protected by sanitary procedures developed by the shipyard: they underwent daily temperature checks; enhanced cleaning procedures were established in the living quarters, the crew mess, and throughout ‘Silver Origin’; and strict social distancing measures were implemented, including a 1.5 m separation rule and a one-way system throughout the ship.
As a result, contact circles were reduced, meetings were cancelled, and fewer people were allowed in each area of the ship. Video calls replaced face-to-face conversations, as flights were cancelled and contractors could no longer reach the yard. Necessary supplies were cut off: carpeting, loose furniture and the on board art collection were delayed in arriving, while the closure of Italy disrupted the installation of the ship’s windows and galley.
Small hurdles became giant obstacles, Silversea said, but still the shipbuilding team continued. The shipyard had fundamentally changed the way it operated to continue the project. None of the employees caught the virus.
While shallow waters on the Waal River delayed ‘Silver Origin’s’ float out from November to 30th December, 2019, the months of January and February brought heavy rain to Western Europe, leading to unusually high water levels. This prevented ‘Silver Origin’ and Barge Rossini from passing beneath the 12 bridges that separate De Hoop Shipyard from the sea.
Finally on 26th March was a safe passage to Rotterdam accessible—more than a month later than originally planned, which left just four weeks between arrival in Rotterdam and the sea trials.
Held from April 27th–29th off the coast of Goeree-Overflakkee, ‘Silver Origin’s’ trials were claimed to be a great success, offering the Master the chance to put the ship through her paces and enabling the shipyard to demonstrate proper operation of the machinery systems.
Necessitated by the travel ban, which prevented sub-contractors from reaching the ship, ‘Silver Origin’s’ trials included a world-first: during the dynamic positioning acceptance test – which tests the ship’s ability to remain within 10 cm of a fixed point without dropping anchor – the ship’s dynamic positioning system was remotely tuned and calibrated by a third party in St Petersburg, Russia—over 1,800 km away.
A fast internet connection was set up on board to enable near-instant communication between both parties and, using a headset and a camera, an engineer in St Petersburg completed manoeuvring tests. Meanwhile, the ship’s Master acted as his lookout on board the vessel.
“This was the first time such an operation has been completed remotely during a sea trial,” explained Fre Drenth, De Hoop Shipyard Director. “The tuning was successful and took no longer than usual. It demonstrates that it is possible to tune dynamic positioning systems remotely. It could potentially save a lot of travelling time for engineers in the future. I am enormously proud of my team for their work.”
“We usually have a large team that participates in the sea trials, but this year was different because of the extraordinary situation,” Vesa Uuttu, Director of Newbuilds & Site Office NL, Royal Caribbean Cruises added. “Hence, a limited team participated—enough to comply with regulations. It was a proud moment to see the ship perform as it did—for all involved, especially the team at the De Hoop Shipyard who have worked tirelessly to complete the project in these tough circumstances.”
“We are so grateful to the professionals at the De Hoop shipyard,” Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s President and CEO commneted. “In the face of such adversity, their efforts were extraordinary and represent the resilience of European industry. ‘Silver Origin’ looks magnificent. Our pioneering new ship represents the dawning of a new age of travel in the Galapagos Islands and we look forward to welcoming guests aboard when the time is right.”
Following the trails, the ship was berthed at Pernis, near Rotterdam for final outfitting before she leaves for the Galapagos Islands. Some 45 members of De Hoop’s workforce remained on Barge Rossini.