‘Mein Schiff 1’ shifted to Kaiserhafen III with passengers on board
Prompt assistance thanks to an extraordinary undertaking: The ‘Mein Schiff 1’ owned by TUI Cruises had to be towed into Kaiserhafen III behind the locks today (Saturday, 26 February 2022) because a starboard stabiliser could no longer be retracted. The unusual thing was not only that a tidal lock manoeuvre had to be carried out to shift the 316-metre long vessel into the port, but that it was performed with passengers on board.
The lock passage was planned and performed by bremenports and Bremen Port Authority. A tidal lock passage is necessary to allow ships that are longer than the lock itself to pass through and means that both lock gates have to be open at the same time. This can only be done when the water levels in the River Weser and in the harbour basin are almost equally high. Because of the tide, there is only a restricted time slot available for such a manoeuvre.
No fewer than 18 employees of the port management company bremenports were on duty as from 3.20 am to handle the diverse steps that are necessary for a successful tidal lock passage. The two lock gates were opened at 6.30 am, when the water level in the River Weser was the same as in the harbour basin. At 7.05 am, when the first rays of light began to appear and the nautical engineers had given the go-ahead, the ‘Mein Schiff 1’ started its passage through Kaiserschleuse lock with the help of two tugs. As soon as the last tug was sufficiently far away from the outer head of the lock, the lock gates began to close at around 7.15 am. At 7.20 am, the engineers began to close the inner head, so that the actual lock passage had been completed by 7.30 am. After the lock function had been tested, the roads were opened to traffic again at 7.50 am and the lock returned to normal operations. The spectacular manoeuvre with passengers on board was over.
bremenports Managing Director Robert Howe was on the spot to watch the procedure and was proud of the commitment shown by his team and the smooth cooperation between everyone involved. “This incident shows once again that shipping companies can rely on the ports of Bremen even if they have unusual requests or need assistance at short notice. The ‘Mein Schiff 1’ is the largest vessel that has ever passed through Kaiserschleuse lock in a tidal lock manoeuvre. The actual lock passage could be completed in less than an hour thanks to ideal weather and tide conditions.”
The ‘Mein Schiff 1’ was originally scheduled to sail for Oslo on a short voyage on 23 February 2022. However, as there had been unforeseen technical problems with one of the two stabilisers on the last voyage, TUI Cruises decided to make use of the longer lay time in Bremerhaven amongst other things to have divers conduct a thorough inspection of the stabilisers. This underwater inspection showed that repairs had to be performed promptly before the ship could safely embark on a new voyage.
As the work on the ship’s hull had to be performed underneath the waterline, it could not be done while the ship was in regular operation and carrying passengers, so that the planned trip to Oslo was cancelled. However, TUI Cruises gave all the passengers the option of staying on board until Sunday, when the trip would originally have ended, for a special price. Some passengers did in fact decide to remain on board, where they experienced this extraordinary lock passage.
The repair work on the starboard stabiliser was then carried out on Sunday at Kaiserhafen III. “Making this repair possible, including the tidal lock passages, is again proof of the efficiency of the ports of Bremen. The western quay, which was completed in 2020 and added extra width to Kaiserhafen III, has definitely made the local shipyards better equipped to succeed against the competition,” stated bremenports Managing Director Robert Howe.
The ‘Mein Schiff 1’ is expected to leave the port in Bremerhaven at around 10.20 am on Tuesday (the decision will be taken on Sunday), again with the help of a tidal lock passage She will then embark on a new voyage on the Seven Seas.