In mid-March the new foot/bicycle ferries Prinses Máxima and Prins Willem-Alexander were inaugurated.
Two years ago, on 26 March 2002, the Queen’s Commissioner in the Province of Zeeland Mr W.T. van Gelder and the contracting shipyard B.V. Scheepswerf Damen Gorinchem, signed the contract for the construction of two new foot/bicycle ferries.
The ships, which are identical, are so-called SWATH vessels (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull). In SWATH vessels, the part of the vessel that is visible above the water surface ‘flies’ over the water, with the upward force generated by two parallel torpedo-like hulls located deep under the water surface. These torpedoes are attached to the above-water part that houses the accommodation by means of thin streamlined struts which pierce the water surface. Because these struts are so slim, waves have a very small effect on the ship’s motions.
In practical terms, this means that even at wind forces of around 9 on the Beaufort scale and wave heights of 2.5 metres, passengers and crew will experience a comfortable crossing.
The two ships were built in the ‘back yard’ of their area of operation, at the Koninklijke Schelde in Vlissingen, a subsidiary of the Damen Shipyards Group
Deciding factors in the selection of the shipyard to build these ships were specialization in designing and building light steel hulls, the high-tech nature of the ships and the possibility of maintaining the ships and if necessary, carrying out repairs.
The two ships are owned by the Province of Zeeland and will be operated by the BBA, a subsidiary of the Connex Group. They are expected to make their maiden voyage in April 2004; the ‘Prins Willem-Alexander’ is currently making trial voyages.
In the meantime, the ‘Prinses Máxima’ has undergone comprehensive testing and all systems on board have been optimally adjusted. The ship has passed all the criteria set by the principal with ‘flying’ colors.