The Madrid Maersk, the latest in a long line of record-breaking containerships, arrived on June 6, 2017 at the Port of Felixstowe’s newest quay, its first port of call in Northern Europe on its maiden voyage.
As the world’s current biggest containership (weighing in at 214,286 metric tons, and a massive 399 meters long, with a beam of 58.6m), the Madrid Maersk is expected to set a record for carrying the maximum number of standard-sized containers (TEU) on its return leg to Asia. Harwich Haven Authority Pilots and Svitzer Tug Masters used HR Wallingford’s UK Ship Simulation Center to train and develop the best methods to handle the ship, and determine the limits of the conditions in which it could enter and leave the port safely.
Pilotage on entry into Felixstowe was carried out by Captain Ian Love in adverse weather, with wind speeds of between 28 and 35 knots with occasional gusts above 40 knots, which had been shown to be feasible in the simulator. Initially two Svitzer tugs provided escort towage from the end of the main channel to the harbor where they were joined by a further two Svitzer tugs to conduct harbor towage and safely berth the vessel. Text book transit was achieved with one tug towing indirect and the other pushing indirect, using methods developed and training provided using the simulators.
HR Wallingford used data provided by Maersk to construct an accurate hydrodynamic model of the Madrid Maersk prior to the ship build being completed. Harwich Haven Authority Special Category Ship Pilots carried out familiarization sessions with the Pilots working alongside Svitzer Tug Masters in integrated tug simulators within HR Wallingford’s UK Ship Simulation Center in Oxfordshire, to determine how the ship would handle in comparison to other large container ships, and to determine the limits within which the new vessel could be maneuvered safely.
Captain Love commented, “The hydrodynamic forces acting on these mega container vessels are enormous, often peaking at 900 [metric tons]. For a Pilot, the ability to understand, quantify, and use these forces to their advantage has never been greater. For the Ship Owner and Captain the knowledge that a full and accurate feasibility study has been carried out goes a long way to fulfilling their risk assessment and placing them at ease.”
The Madrid Maersk is a Triple-E Mark II, the first of Maersk Line’s second generation Triple-Es. The original Triple-Es have been regular callers at Felixstowe since 2013. Delivery of the remaining 10 Triple-E Mark II’s is expected to take place between now and the middle of 2018.