Residential Cruise Ship Makes Novel Preparations for Arctic Transit
The residential cruise ship The World is preparing to transit the Northwest Passage this summer, and as a precautionary measure, her crewmembers have practiced the use of a newly designed magnetic patch system to seal holes from contact with drift ice.
The unusual 200-meter vessel The World is divided into 165 owned apartments, and its operators describe it as the largest "privately-owned residential yacht" on earth. In 2012, she set the record to become the largest passenger vessel to sail the Northwest Passage unescorted from west to east. She returns to the route this fall to complete a "double transit," sailing east to west from Greenland to Nome, Alaska. This time, she will have an extra backup plan in the event of contact with ice.
A team from seal maker Miko Marine joined The World at Reykjavik, Iceland last month to demonstrate the installation of magnetic hull patches without diver assistance. Miko manufactures emergency magnetic seal kits for merchant and government vessels; the patch is made of a mixture of magnetic rare earth particles and strong nitrile rubber. These are typically placed by divers, but this poses a serious challenge in frigid Arctic waters. Miko's new polar kit allows for dive-free installation above the waterline or a few meters below, making it the only system of its kind.
To fit the patch over a hole, the crew picks from a range of patch sizes in the kit. Then they affix high-power permanent magnets - each capable of holding 450 kg of weight - to the side of the hull above the hole. These magnetic fixtures support an installation drum, which is used to unroll the magnetic patch over the hole. The patch sticks immediately, and more magnets are installed to make sure that it has ample holding power. This avoids both the need for a diver and the challenges - sometimes the impossibility - of shoring up damage from within the interior compartments of a complex modern vessel. With the patch in place, the vessel can seek a port of refuge for repairs.
“This is the type of equipment that should be carried by all vessels operating regularly in polar regions,” said Professor Norvald Kjerstad of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, an expert on polar navigation and its risks. “It is practical to use and is a demonstration of the preparedness required by ships seeking to comply with the Polar Code."