The next newbuilding of Germany’s burgeoning TUI Cruises, MEIN SCHIFF 5, was floated at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland in chilly weather on Friday, 15th January. I was there as a representative of the Finnish maritime magazine Ulkomatala (www.ulkomatala.net), who kindly allowed me to share the experience in English with Maritime Matters’ readers.
Due to train and bus timetables, I arrived half an hour early at the shipyard. The press room was not ready for visitors yet, but the staff kindly allowed me to wait in one of the meeting rooms, instead of having to stand outside in the heavy snowfall. The said room doubled as a storage and was filled with interesting relics from the shipyard’s past, including various builder’s models and even a presentation of the yard’s history that was in itself historical, dating from the time the yard was owned by Wärtsilä.
Following a brief presentation about the construction process of the MEIN SCHIFF 5, we were herded to a bus, to be given a brief tour of the shipyard itself, and chances to photograph the ship from some unusual vantage points.
Our first stop was the side of the building dock, allowing for views of the ship as she’s “high and dry”.
Even better was to come: our bus next navigated through a tunnel, emerging in the bottom of the building dock, giving us a chance to see the MEIN SCHIFF 5 from a rather unusual perspective and even walk below the ship.
Next, the bus ferried us back up for the actual launching ceremony. The valves allowing water to flood into the drydock were opened by Meyer Turku’s CEO Jan Meyer, together with members of the MEIN SCHIFF 5 team. The signal to open the valves was given by the cannon group of Arma Aboa, a local historical society specialising in weaponry, using a replica of an 18th century cannon. Naturally, the group were dressed in replicas of 18th-century military uniforms, specifically worn during the reign of Karl XII of Sweden.
After the launch, we returned to the office building for short speeches by Jan Meyer of Meyer Turku and Ferdinand Strohmeyer of TUI Cruises. The latter noted that until today, he had not known you could launch ships with snow. In Finland, anything is possible. 😉
After speeches, we were treated with a rather lovery buffet style lunch. This was followed by chances of social mingling (not to mention further chances to photograph the wonderful builder’s models in the office) before the party dispersed. Meyer Turku kindly allowed me and one other journalist to borrow the bus used to ferry us around the shipyard for a trip back to the city, which certainly made our lives a lot simpler.
The MEIN SCHIFF 5 was towed out of the building dock of 3 AM the following night and moved to the outfitting quay. Next, the dock will again be emptied to make room for the next newbuilding, a fast ropax ferry for Tallink’s Helsinki-Tallinn service. This year will be busy for the shipyard, as simultaneously with the new Tallink ship, the MEIN SCHIFF 5’s next sister MEIN SCHIFF 6 will be built. The MEIN SCHIFF 5 will be completed next July, followed by the Tallink ship in early 2017 and the MEIN SCHIFF 6 in summer 2017. After these the yard will deliver two more MEIN SCHIFFs (numbers 7 and 8) in 2018 and 2019, followed by two newbuildings for Costa Cruises in 2019-2020. A sister ship to Tallink’s new ferry might also be slotted into this schedule, as they will reportedly decide within the next weeks whether or not to use the option of a sister ship. So it’s busy times ahead for Meyer Turku!
End of MEIN SCHIFF 5 Floats (With Snow).
Special thanks to Tapani Mylly of Meyer Turku and Olli Tuominen of Ulkomatala
Kalle Id, MaritimeMatters' Helsinki correspondent, is a Finnish maritime historian, photographer and journalist, with a Master's Degree in history from the University of Helsinki. His early-age exposure to ferry travel led to a lifetime fascination with passenger ships, both the cruise ferries of his home waters and the cruise ships and ferries of further afield. Kalle maintains his own ship photography blog at kships.blogspot.com. Contrary to the popular belief, he writes under his real name.