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The Tremendous Tamesis

28,480hp from an engine with a 6,983-litre capacity.

By Julian Edgar, pics courtesy of Wallenius Wilhelmson

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There's big... then there's BIG. The Tamesis roll-on roll-off carrier is one that fits into the latter category. From its ability to carry no less than 5430 cars to its 240-metre length and 32-metre width, the ship is one impressive bit of gear. Of course, when you have a vessel that cost AUS$160million, you'd expect it to be pretty good.

The first of four new-generation vessels designed for the transport of cars, trains, heavy agricultural equipment, yachts and general cargo, the Tamesis was delivered in 2000, the product of the Daewoo Okpo Shipyard. Yes, that's right - this monster wears a Daewoo Heavy Industries badge... The owner is Wallenius Wilhelmson, a worldwide shipping company.

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With a deadweight of 38,300 tonnes, the Tamesis has 35 per cent more car carrying ability than previous Wilhelmson ships. Unlike previous roll-on roll off ships (the 'ro ro' description refers to the fact that cargo can get on and off the ship on wheels), the Tamesis has been primarily designed for non-containerised cargo. Other ro-ro ships normally also carry containers on the weather deck, but instead of following this approach, on the Tamesis (and her sister ships - the Talsiman, Tarago and Tamerlane) this area was made into a covered hold with three additional decks.

The shop has no less than 8 internal decks giving a total deck area of 45,889 square metres. If you imagine a field a bit over 200 metres by 200 metres packed with cars, you can see how the ship can carry so many...

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Heavier cargo (eg trucks) is carried on the lower decks, where there is a free height of 3.4 metres and the decks have been strengthened to withstand loads of up to 10 tonnes per square metre. Really large objects (such as railway locomotives) can be placed on Deck 4, which has a free height of 6.4 metres. For non-wheeled cargo, the ship also has a number of 16- and 32-tonne forklifts.

And, just to make sure that versatility always keeps the decks full, there are fasteners in the Tamesis to allow the carrying of up to 1600 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) containers.

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So that cars filled with fuel and with connected batteries can be safely carried, the ship is equipped with 68 axial flow fans to provide sufficient ventilation. Of the eight decks, four are fixed into place with the other four hoistable, ie are able to be moved up and down. Six of the decks are above sea level, projecting 35 metres into the air.

Beneath the waterline, the ship has a double-skinned hull with the spaces between the skins serving as water ballast tanks. The double bottom skin contains the fuel tanks, in additional to more water ballast tanks.

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Access to the cargo carrying decks is a by a 12 metre wide stern ramp, angled to the starboard (ie right hand side). The ramp is made from three sections, and is able to support four vehicles simultaneously with a combined load of 320 tonnes.

Propulsion is by an engine with a maximum continuous rating of 28,480hp at just 106 rpm. The in-line engine, manufactured by MAN B&W Diesel, is one of that company's very successful MC series, which have been produced since 1982. The turbocharged engines are characterised by having mechanically driven camshaft-controlled timing of the fuel injection, exhaust valves, starting air valves and cylinder lubrication. (A new range of electronic control engines, the ME series, is soon to be released.)

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The enormous two-stroke, 8-cylinder diesel uses a stroke of 2268mm and a bore of 700mm, giving an engine capacity of just under 7000 litres. Weighing in at 667 tons, the engine is no less than 12 metres long. Incidentally, the Tamesis engine is just a cooking model - other MC-series engines are available with power outputs of up to 93,320hp! Still, a little under 30,000hp isn't too bad - no wonder the ship's engine control room (shown here) looks like something out of a city power station...

The engine has a lubricating oil consumption of 44 - 60kg of oil per day, while its fuel burn at its maximum continuous power is about 80 tonnes each 24 hours. The last figure looks a bit better when it is expressed as 128 grams per hp per hour...

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The engine drives a nickel-aluminium-bronze propeller with a diameter of 7.4 metres. The fixed pitch prop - made by Hyundai - rotates at 106 rpm, powering the ship to a service speed of no less than 20 knots.

Incredibly, a crew of only 28 is required to run the ship.

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The Daewoo ship building company that constructed the Tamesis was formed in 1978. The Commercial Vessel Division has since constructed more than 400 vessels, including containerships, oil tankers, bulk carriers - and of course ro-ro vessels. Its production facilities include Dock No 1, recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest dock. Part of the equipment for this dock includes a crane capable of lifting 900 tons, and in addition, the dock is equipped with two 220-ton cranes ands four 'baby' 50-toners. Dock No 1 is over half a kilometre long...

And another statistic to ponder over. When the Tamesis is fully laden with cars, it wouldn't be hard for the cargo to have a value of over AUS$250 million!

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