Queen Mary 2: Built to keep alive the traditions of the great ocean liners

Inside the chaotic interior of Queen Mary 2, welding leads and electrical wires were jumbled on deck, while ceilings yet to be welded dripped from the morning’s rain. Outside, a half-mile-long section of the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in St.-Nazaire, France, was full of massive sections of ships waiting to be joined like a giant Lego set. Halfway down the line sat a stern with mooring bits ready for hawsers, while farther along, the commanding figure of a ship’s bridge presided over a swath of pavement.

QM2 nears completion at Chantiers de l’Atlantique in St.-Nazaire, France. The 1,132-foot ship is due to enter trans-Atlantic service in spring of 2004.
   Image Credit: Cunard Line

Surveying the scene, Coordinator of Construction Etienne Lamock answered skeptics who have suggested the vessel will be nothing more than a gargantuan cruise ship doing an occasional ocean crossing. Echoing a sentiment heard repeatedly in the yard, Lamock proudly declared, “This is not a cruise ship. We’re building a liner.”

Scheduled for delivery in December, the 2,620-passenger QM2 has been generating enormous attention and seems certain to become the most famous ship in the world. At 1,132 feet long, 135 feet wide and 150,000 grt, Cunard’s QM2 will be the largest passenger ship ever built and will replace QE2 on the trans-Atlantic run in April 2004.

Costing just shy of $800 million (up to a third more than a comparably sized cruise ship), QM2 is considered the first true liner to be built since QE2’s maiden voyage in 1969.

The dome of the planetarium is readied for connection to the ceiling of the auditorium that will house it.

Because cruise ships are designed for lollygagging around placid seas, none has the speed and strength to withstand continuous exposure to the stresses common on the North Atlantic, while maintaining a strict liner service schedule. During a crossing, QM2 will not have the luxury of skipping a port in order to reach its destination on schedule, making sufficient reserve speed essential. While her six-day great-circle route only requires 24 knots, QM2’s four Mermaid pods will have a staggering 86 MW of propulsive power, enabling her to reach close to 30 knots. For comparison, the 142,000-ton Voyager of the Seas has only 42 MW of power.

Unlike the typical blunt-nosed cruise ships of today, QM2’s bow is slender and narrow with a razor-like edge that will allow her to pierce rather than pound into Atlantic waves at high speeds. Where most cruise ships would be forced to slow to 10 or perhaps 15 knots in Force 9 conditions, QM2 will be able to maintain speeds of over 20 knots without undue discomfort to her passengers.

Chantiers’ naval architect for the project, Jean Remy Villageois, boasted that QM2’s deep draft of almost 33 feet and immense size will make her the most stable passenger ship ever. “With sea-keeping ability, size is a factor,” he explained.

Her entire hull will be lean and comparatively narrow, and her block coefficient (an indicator of just how streamlined the hull is) will be only 0.61, well below the 0.70, or so, of conventional cruise ships with boxier hulls.

The ship’s massive bulbous bow was built in Poland, then shipped to France for installation.

Even her stern will be unusual; a more hydrodynamically efficient transom shape is used at the waterline and becomes a rounded cruiser stern just above the waterline to allow for better sea-keeping and aesthetics.

Worried that bidding shipyards would not understand what was required of the new ship, parent company Carnival Corp. took the unprecedented step of requiring the yards to build the ship to a fatigue-life calculation indicating she will last 40 years.

As far as Carnival knows, this is the first time a company ever specified a fatigue life for a passenger ship. Carnival’s naval architect Stephen Payne said, “In fairness, Chantiers and another yard immediately understood what was required of the liner, but at least two other yards that were in with a chance at the start only wanted to build a cruise ship.”

As a result of the fatigue-life study, usual shipyard work procedures at Chantiers, such as grinding and welding techniques, were revised and made more stringent for this project. This unusual deviation from normal practices helped to ensure clean, strong bonds with no hidden weaknesses.

The ship’s strength will come in part from extremely thick steel that averages 1.1 inches from the keel to the boat deck, versus approximately 0.7 inches for a typical cruise ship. The superstructure and all supporting steelwork inside the ship have been given extra reinforcing, and thousands of brackets and stiffeners have been added throughout. Main bulkheads have been reinforced in a fore-and-aft direction, rather than the usual athwartships direction, to help absorb some of the stress involved from plunging into waves.

QM2’s design incorporates operational necessities not considered on most cruise ships. Recent Safety of Life at Sea regulations, for instance, require that lifeboats be placed less than 52.5 feet above the water. Fearing that large Atlantic swells might damage boats placed so low, Cunard received an exemption that allowed the ship’s lifeboats to be approximately 88 feet above the water. Her tremendous size created another obstacle — the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York. QM2’s funnel will look significantly shorter than QE2’s, as it is designed to clear the bridge by a scant 10 feet.

The ship is powered by four Wärtsilä EnviroEngines employing smokeless technology.

Her traditional profile, complete with a long bow and tiered aft decks, was driven both by appearance and practicality, as the ship features a tapered and set-back superstructure to minimize wave damage. This design decreases potential onboard revenue, however, as a more conventional, boxy design would allow greater internal volume and additional cabins and public rooms.

A conventional cruise ship is essentially built around the interior architecture. By contrast, the designers of QM2 had to work around structural considerations first and layout second. As an example, when an extra pillar was added to the dining room for strength, the designers were forced to rework their décor around the extra pillar.

With Carnival demanding profits, QM2 has had to make some concessions to cruise-industry expectations never seen before on an Atlantic liner. Chief among those are her eight decks of balconies, which initially evoked images of monster waves sweeping along the hull, tearing away partitions and smashing glass. On QM2, however, the lowest balconies do not extend outside the hull but are instead recessed into the steel, and balcony doors are hinged at the forward end to prevent their being blown open by wind.

In December 2002, the massive hull of the ship had begun to take shape. At this stage, 100-foot-long sections still had to be added at the bow and stern.

Operationally, QM2 will be a major change for Cunard, which currently operates two ships, both of which have conventional twin-screw, single-rudder arrangements. Most, if not all, of QM2’s deck officers will attend simulator training to become familiar with her four engine pods — two of which are fixed and two of which are fully azimuthal — and her three 3.2-MW bow thrusters.

Following tests that discovered a technical fault in the fourth pod, the two pods that had already been delivered to the shipyard were returned as a precautionary measure to Rolls-Royce in Norway for retesting. This is not expected to delay the ship’s delivery.

Able to swing around in her own length without tugs, QM2 will also have dynamic-positioning capability that will allow her to hold station to within a few yards. In fact, despite her size, Cunard expects QM2 to be extremely maneuverable and dock routinely without the assistance of tugs in the tricky New York finger piers, where QE2 commonly uses three tugs.

The totally enclosed bridge will be a significant departure from the normal T-shaped design. Shaped like a banana, the bridge will allow unencumbered movement by the deck officers when docking this mammoth ship. Interestingly, because of the shape of the bridge, one will not be able to stand on one bridge wing and see across the 147 feet to the other wing.

Much of the electronics were designed exclusively for QM2. The bridge will feature interchangeable flat-screen displays that will allow the officer to choose the desired information (ranging from radar displays to ballast information) and where it is displayed.

The ship’s funnel will rise 237 feet above the keel and will pass just 10 feet below the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at the entrance to New York.

Docking the ship in New York will present an unusual challenge. Because the New York piers are only 1,000 feet long, QM2’s stern will overhang more than 100 feet into the Hudson River. In order to allow the ship to tie up properly, the mooring stations were designed with especially long fore and aft extensions, or wings. The aft mooring station will have leads placed farther forward than usual and allow the officers to run spring and stern lines despite being in the river, while the bow will have leads running from much farther aft than usual.

QM2’s engine room will employ the latest technology, including smokeless engines using common rail technology providing greater fuel economy. The result of a joint project between Carnival and Wärtsilä, the system features a shared fuel reservoir that supplies constant fuel pressure through electronically controlled injectors, making the fuel supply independent of engine revolutions.

Using water injection into the chambers to reduce noxious emissions, these engines are part of a trend toward greater environmental protection. Where QE2 uses nine Man B&W engines for her entire power plant, QM2’s will consist of four Wärtsilä 16V46 EnviroEngines. To help supplement the hotel load, a gas turbine situated at the base of the funnel gives a grand total of 116 MW.

Despite the technology, QM2 will still be very much based in tradition. Sailing into New York Harbor for the first time accompanied by a rousing flotilla of tugs and vessels, QM2 will be commanded by Cunard veteran Capt. Ronald W. Warwick, whose father was the first captain of Queen Elizabeth 2. Just as the captain is following in his father’s footsteps, Queen Mary 2 is the next generation of Cunard liners conveying passengers in grand style across the Atlantic.

By Professional Mariner Staff