July 6, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Elizabeth
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 429 days
Firstly a belated happy 4th of July for all our American readers, I hope it was a great celebration for you all.
Meanwhile as you know, last Thursday I was lucky enough to be part of another historic Cunard event. So as promised here are the first pictures of our new Queen which I took at the Keel Laying ceremony of Queen Elizabeth which took place in Monfalcone, Italy. Although Fincantieri is the same company that built Queen Victoria, the actual ship yard is different, located about 100 miles away between Venice and Trieste. This is the first of two special Blogs celebrating this amazing day.
It was a very early start as our small group including, President and Managing Director of Cunard Line, Carol Marlow, arrived at Venice airport for the ninety minute transfer to the ship yard. As we drove through the small town of Monfalcone this was the first thing I saw as we arrived: –
The ship yard is dominated by numerous huge cranes which are used to lift large sections, of ships under construction, from one place to another and yes in the foreground you can see a part of our latest Cunarder!
After a very welcome lunch, hosted by some of the senior executives from Fincantieri, including the ship yard director Paolo Capobianco, we were shown around the yard itself.
However firstly I need to take you back to where story really started. It was some time ago when the steel that would make up the ship’s superstructure, was first cut. This is a view of the steel works, adjacent to the ship yard itself, where this took place and where the construction of Queen Elizabeth began.
As the yard is involved with up to three different ships at a time, the hull number and other important information is written on every piece of painted metal, as it effectively becomes the biggest 3 dimensional jigsaw you could ever imagine. The hull number for Queen Elizabeth is 6187 and the markings look like this.
The painted sheets of steel are delivered to sheds like the one below, where they are welded together to form the different blocks and parts of the ship although they are still completely unrecognizable at this stage.
The blocks are then stored in various locations around the yard until they are ready to be put together to form larger blocks. It can get a bit crowded, and with parking for the yard workers also being tight for space, compromises do occur. Not exactly a regular car park!
As we were shown around the yard you could see sections of the ship everywhere with a huge amount of work taking place, often deep inside the various blocks. This photo shows a section of Queen Elizabeth’s hull with men welding inside. The big yellow piece of equipment is a heavy duty extraction fan to keep the small working spaces ventilated through the blue hose.
It’s an incredibly impressive operation and even more amazing when you think that in less than fifteen months time this will be a finished ship ready to sail to Southampton for her maiden voyage!
We were then taken to the dry dock area for the ceremony, where we met more of the team who were going to transform these blocks of steel in to a magnificent ship. There is just the one dry dock at this yard and time is crucial to ensure that delivery deadlines can be met. In fact we found out that the previous ship (P&O Cruise’s Azura) had only been floated out of this dock just a week earlier. In the meantime the dock had been drained and prepared for the next ship. It’s on these carefully placed blocks, that Queen Elizabeth will rest, until her float out incredibly, in under six months time.
The picture doesn’t do any justice to the sheer size of this dry dock, but if you look closely you can see two men in the middle of the picture which puts the scale of the project in to perspective. Before you ask, the view is looking forward to the dock doors which will move so Queen Elizabeth float to her outfitting dock.
We gathered with Fincantieri representatives and members of the press under the flags of Italy, The United Kingdom (as with all Cunarders, Queen Elizabeth will have Southampton as her port of registration), and the European Union. We were also joined by the ship yard chaplain Padre Gildo who was to offer a blessing for the successful construction of the new liner.
Here is the all important first block which will be in the middle of the completed ship. It was suspended by a massive crane (that can carry up to a staggering thousand tons), and numerous cables with a plate marking the special occasion, waiting for the ceremony to begin at 3.00pm.
Well I’m afraid that’s where I’m going to leave the story of the day so far. To see the block being lowered in to the dry dock you’ll have to wait until I return for the regular Blog on Thursday. I’ll have lots more pictures and hopefully some video – perhaps my first video blog? In the meantime thanks again for logging on and of course as always I welcome your questions and comments.