93 working days, 129 sections and 10,000 tonnes will complete Honfleur’s hull
Honfleur passed her most important milestone yet on August 6 when the first sections of her hull were laid on the slipway from which she will be launched at the end of the year.
The date on which a vessel is 'laid down' is considered to be its birthday, and the moment is traditionally marked by a keel-laying ceremony dating back to Roman times in which coins are placed beneath the keel to bring the new ship luck.
Brittany Ferries was represented at Honfleur's keel-laying by its chief naval architect and Honfleur's designer Brice Robinson, and by Fleur Le Derff, who will be a senior officer aboard Honfleur when the ferry enters service.
They placed three coins in a brass box set into one of the supports on which the hull will rest. The Euro and pound coins reflect Honfleur's cross-Channel route, while Fleur added a Congolese franc, a souvenir from her first posting as an officer on a rig supply vessel off the West African coast. A 200-tonne section of hull was then craned down on top of the box.
A Euro, pound coin and Congolese franc comprise the coins in the keel
"I've never been so closely involved in the construction of a ship before," said Fleur. She and Brice are part of the Brittany Ferries team overseeing the build at the FSG shipyard in Flensburg, northern Germany, and Fleur will stay with Honfleur as the vessel is completed and enters service.
"For those of us in the merchant navy, our ships are never just pieces of steel. We are very attached to them. But my attachment to Honfleur will be even stronger after today."
"Of course it's an important milestone in shipbuilding terms," added Brice. "But for me it's also when Honfleur becomes a living thing. You can begin to see her take shape. From today until she leaves service, many decades from now, she will constantly have people in and around her, starting with yard’s workers to be followed by the crew and passengers”
The first hull sections are laid
The ceremony had even greater significance in past times when vessels were built from the keel up, making the laying of the keel the first act in a ship's construction. But modern shipbuilding methods mean that since the ceremony to mark the first steel cut for Honfleur on March 12, thousands of tonnes of steel have been cut and welded into dozens of vast hull sections which now sit on the quayside awaiting assembly.
Modern keel-laying ceremonies take place when the first of these sections is craned into position on the slipway. Two sections were positioned on August 6, giving Honfleur her forward engine room, some tanks and part of her aft engine room.
Over the next 93 working days a total of 129 sections, some weighing in excess of 200 tonnes, will be positioned and welded together. The completed hull will be six decks and 20m deep and will weigh in excess of 10,000 tonnes. FSG is the only shipyard in Germany with a traditional slipway, and on December 14 this vast vessel will be launched backwards spectacularly into the Baltic.
But not before the coins have been removed: they'll later be placed beneath the ship's radio mast, harking back to another naval tradition in which coins were placed under the main mast to bring luck, and to be used as a deposit for a possible mast renewal after a storm.
After the launch, Honfleur's hull will be brought alongside the shipyard's quay where its entire superstructure will be craned aboard in two colossal 2000-tonne sections, before her final outfitting and departure for sea trials.
"The timing of all these other milestones is based on the date of the keel-laying," says Brice. "That's the other significance of today. Now we're looking forward to pressing on, seeing Honfleur take shape, and getting her into service."
Pre-fabricated hull sections