24 January 2014

Voima in Helsinki, 24 January 2014

I know that when I wrote the previous entry in this blog, I promised that next time we would feature the Vision of the Seas - this time for real.

Well, I lied. The 60-year-old Finnish icebreaker Voima left Helsinki today to start her icebreaking season for this winter. And since I've made it my mission this winter to get as many icebreaker photos as possible, I was out there to photograph her depature. And while the photos are still fresh, I want to share them with you.


IMO 5383158
Built 1954, Wärtsilä Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 4 159 GT
Length 83,50 m
Width 19,40 m
Draugth 7,00 m
21 crew
6 Wärtsilä 16V22 diesels, combined 15 000 kW
2 propellers (aft)
2 propellers (forward)
Speed 18 knots

The Voima ("force" or "power") was completed in 1954 by Wärtsilä's Helsinki shipyard as the first ship in Finland's ambitious plan to rebuilt the country's icebreaker fleet, which had been badly depleted due to World War II, with the most powerful icebreakers (the Jääkarhu and the first Voima) ceded to the Soviet Union as war reparations and the newest icebreaker, the first Sisu, badly damaged by a mine. When completed, the Voima was the most advanced icebreaker of her time; she was not the most poweful, but she was the only one with two propellers both forward and aft, making her the most efficient icebreaker. Such was the success of the Voima that no less than four additional units of the same design were built, three for the Soviet Union and one for Sweden, while the Voima's basic design served as a template for essentially all subsequent icebreakers built by Wärtsilä during the 1950s and 60s.

While successful in terms of design, the Voima's first years in service were marred by difficulties of more human nature. Hitherto almost all Finnish icebreakers had carried civilian crews, but due to the Finnish Seamen's Union's active strike policy for the Voima the decision was made to follow the model in use in Sweden (and most other countries) where icebreakers are crewed by the country's navy. And military personnel, naturally, cannot go on strike. This policy change became a bone of contention between the Finnish National Board of Navigation and the Seamen's Union, with Finnish-flagged ships refusing to accept assistance from the Voima. Eventually the state backed down, and in December 1995 the Voima was crewed by civilians. The following winter was hard and the Voima's icebreaking capacity came to good use, when she assisted a record number of ships during the winter season - including the older icebreakers Sampo and Tarmo.

By the late 70s the Finnish icebreaking fleet was getting old, and the decision was made to extensively modernise the Voima at Wärtsilä's Helsinki yard in 1978-79. What possibly also had an effect in the decision to modernise the ship was the economic downturn experienced at the time, as back then the Finnish State was keen to provide employment during difficult times. In the refit, the Voima's hull plates and engines was changed, and an entirely new superstructure was built, resulting in essentially a new vessel with 60% cost of building a new ship from scratch. After the refit, the Voima's hull was repainted red to improve visibility. In the mid-80s she reverted to a black hull colour.

In 2004 the Voima, like all Finnish icebreakers, was moved from direct state ownership under the ownership of the state-owned Finstaship. In 2010, her ownership transferred to the (also state-owned) Arctia Shipping. As the Voima is the oldest icebreaker in the Finnish fleet (and indeed the oldest active-service icebreaker in the world), plans are in motion to replace her with a newer and larger unit. Previously it has been reported that she would be replaced in 2015, when the new as-of-yet nameless icebreaker ordered from Arctech Helsinki Shipyard earlier this week will be completed, but most recent reports state that the new icebreaker will be utilised to replace the icebreaker chartered by the Finnish state from Sweden. This would mean that the Voima will remain in service, at least as a backup ship, even after 2015.

The photographs below show the Voima departing from the icebreaker base at Helsinki's Katajanokka in the morning of 24 January 2014. Photographed, also, from Katajanokka. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Backing away from quay. Notice (how could you not?) the ice.
Turning to the shipping lane, with the ESL Shipping bulk carrier Kallio in the background on the right.
The Voima (1954/1979) with the Hanasaari B power plant (1954) in the background.
A more close-up view, passing in front of the Korkeasaari island zoo.
The building in the background here used to house the Finnish Maritime Museum, until a new building was erected for it in Kotka.
The Voima's superstructure is, obviously, rather different from the original. You can see the Voima as built for instance here.
Disappearing the the snow and the awaiting icy waters of the Gulf of Finland.
Next time: Well, this time hopefully the Vision of the Seas for real.

22 January 2014

Arcadia in Helsinki, 28 June 2013


IMO 9226906
Built 2005, Fincantieri Porto Maghera, Italy
Tonnage 82 972 GT
Length 285,30 m
Width 32,20 m
Draugth 7,80 m
2 556 passengers
5 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 51 840 kW
2 azipods
3 bow thrusters
Speed 22 knots

As P&O Cruises last week made public their plan to alter their traditional livey, that has been in use since the arrival of the Strathnaver in 1931, I thought it a good moment to look at a P&O Cruises ship still in the current livery. Namely the Arcadia, the history of which was (albiet briefly) covered in an earlier entry.

It will perhaps not come as a surprise to anyone that I quite live the current P&O livery. I'm not normally a fan of all-white hulls and superstructures, but P&O pull it off rather well. A major contributor to this are of course the stylish buff (yellow) funnels that function as an attractive counterpoint, creating a very balanced whole (admittedly this is less true with the Princess Cruises -derivatives Azura and Ventura, due to their different funnel design).

The new P&O livery, on the other hand, has none of the uniqueness of the current livery. You can see the new colours for instance at MaritimeMatters here. Dark blue funnels are fast becoming the new industry norm - and I understand the appeal, as the colour is very nautical. But have you noticed how many passenger shipping companies have during the last half a decade have opted for blue funnels and/or hulls? The recognisability of the hue is quickly becoming eroded - something that is not a problem with the current funnels. And the Union Flag on the hull seems very much like pandering to the nationalist elements currently on the rise in Europe. P&O is already a British Institution. There is no need to further emphasise that by such a blatantly jingoistic element.

Overall, the new livery also has the problem, as pointed out by other observers, that it is quite similar to that of Norwegian Cruise Line: dark blue funnels with hull art at the bow. Certainly the impression I have thus far held of P&O is quite different from my impression of NCL. I also have to say that, as a purely personal note, the new P&O livery actually makes me want to sail with them less. For years, the company has been on my "bucket list", but I'm finding their product less and less appealing. Certainly the change of livery is not the only thing contributing to this, but even so - and I admit this is entirely irrational - the blue-funneled P&O seems a lot less appealing to me than the yellow-funneled P&O.

Rant aside and onwards to the point: The photographs below show P&O's Arcadia departing from Helsinki West Harbour in the evening of 28 June 2013. Photographed from Sisä-Hattu. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

I've always been a fan of the Vista-class and its pleasant simple lines. The Arcadia looks particularly good with her simple livery balancing the good looks of the ship. The dark window stripes of the top decks also work splendidly on her.
The return of the bush of japanese roses in the foreground.
Finnish granite, part 1.
Finnish granite, part 2. I really, really like this shot.
And some more Finnish granite, now in a boldery form.
Next time: the Vision of the Seas. This time for real, I promise!

18 January 2014

AIDAbella in Helsinki, 28 June 2013


IMO 9362542
Built 2008, Meyer Werft Papenburg, Germany
Tonnage 69 203 GT
Length 251,89 m
Width 32,20 m
Draugth 7,20 m
2 500 passengers
4 MaK diesels, combined 36 000 kW
2 azipods
2 bow thrusters
2 stern thusters
Service speed 19,5 knots
Maximum speed 21,8 knots

Not much to say about the AIDAbella. She was completed as the second ship of AIDA Cruises' Sphinx class of newbuildings, and as such lacks the additional structures above the bridge introduced in the latter ships of the series (such as the AIDAmar featured in the previous entry).

The photographs below show the AIDAbella departing from Helsinki West Harbour in the afternoon of 28 June 2013, photographed from Sisä-Hattu. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Today's foreground theme: The Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa).
Now with a sprinkling of added Rowan.
Next time: Probably the Vision of the Seas.