Posted by: Craig | April 28, 2008

Zeebrugge

AIS map from Lloyd's MIU

It’s Monday morning at eight o’clock. The vessel is now alongside the berth in Zeebrugge, beside us are an assortment of diggers, bulldozers, cherry pickers and various cranes. There are also yachts and cars of course.

When I head up to the bridge at four o’clock, the pilot was already onboard, hidden in the darkness at first, while Annie Lennox quietly told everyone that there were angels playing with her heart. I have time for a quick strong coffee watching other ships pass by in the early morning gloom and hearing the Adelphi report in to London VTS, across the English Channel, that she has 29 souls onboard and ETA will be at 0700 at the berth.

After twenty minutes I head off to don my work clothes and go to the mooring station. I feel very conspicuous in my fluorescent jacket. Ellinor and two of the Filipino crew are there making the tug fast as we approach the Zeebrugge locks.

The Rolls Royce winches are easy to operate, though there are a few issues with disengaging the clutch. I notice that while automated, there is no manual lever for disengaging the rope drum from the winch drive if the hydraulic system fails. When this happens, the crew needs to get an engineer up to fix it, which is not easy if it is 4am and those that are awake are in the engine room.

The Filipinos have an elaborate set up for the heaving lines to manoeuvre the mooring lines around the huge stern ramp, and once we have cleared the locks they set everything up for maneuvering starboard side alongside at the berth. The whole operation takes two hours to go through the locks, swing round (I saw how effective the rudder is at helping the vessel turn) and tie up alongside. Opposite us in the basin is another Wallenius Lines vessel, Falstaff, and I can see a parade of cars rolling off her ramp.

In all the mooring operation was a lot simpler than most I saw, the winches seem better designed and despite the apparent issues with the ropes. Fidelio is a wide vessel, so there is a lot of width on the covered poop to move. All finished at 0730 and breakfast.

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