A couple of weeks ago I visited Turku, Finland, to see the latest stage of construction. Visiting the ship at this stage is quite an experience both because of the construction and because of the weather.
The environment was striking—with a temperature of 13º below zero. I arrived with my heaviest winter coat and my warmest boots, but the shipyard always insists that I change from my nice warm stuff into their safety gear. That includes a flame resistant coat, steel toed shoes, a helmet, gloves, protective glasses, ear plugs and a flashlight. I fully support all this from a safety perspective, but it sure is painful when the cold steel of the ship radiates freezing vibrations right through to my bones.
The ship itself is fascinating at this stage. She is 80% complete and there are 2,300 workers physically onboard. Seeing the whole project finally coalescing into a real ship is exciting, and witnessing the staggering amount of work necessary to build such an ambitious project is simply awesome. My son (pictured) joined me on the trip which made it especially rewarding for me. The fact that he was as impressed as I was really made me feel good.
The first morning, we went through the construction schedule. The number of workers onboard is about 200 workers short of plan, but the progress has still been good. As a result, the yard management feels confident that they will meet or beat the delivery date specified. We want the ship early to give us more time to train everyone and to show off our baby. We agreed to reconvene in April to fix on the exact delivery schedule and the logistics surrounding it.
We next toured the ship. But it is hard to call it a ship. It seems more like a construction site although a construction site would be warmer. There are people welding and hammering everywhere. The floors are covered with cables and materials. You can barely make out the shape of the spaces where the rooms will be. It is also very cold and we have been pressuring the yard to heat the working areas better. While the choice is theirs to make, the intense cold is tough on the workers and could affect the schedule. Under normal circumstances, we would also be concerned that they were also letting the quality of work suffer, but the Finns are careful about this and our people are vigilant as well. The Finns are very considerate of their workers; they stop outdoor production when the temperature goes below minus 20º. (What wimps.)
Our team is happy with the pace of work and the quality of workmanship, but there is some concern about the financial/operating condition of a couple of the subcontractors. One subcontractor already went bankrupt and had to be replaced. Fortunately, the replacement company has worked with our ships before and we are very happy with their work. It will cost the yard something to make the change, but their budget allows a certain amount of room for such contingencies.
One feature I was especially looking forward to seeing was the loft suites (rendering). The spaces where the loft suites will go were already in place on my last visit, but the stairs were blocked and the yard didn’t feel it was safe for me to climb the makeshift ladder to get there. (Apparently, they felt that injuring their biggest customer might be bad for business). This time the lofts were accessible and they were terrific. There has never been a stateroom like it at sea, ever, and I now wish we had made more of them (we have 27). We had previously built a full scale mockup at a nearby bicycle warehouse (they were the only ones that had enough space for such a large structure). The mockup was fabulous, but seeing the real thing, even without decoration, was thrilling.
Here are some other images from my trip: