Various European companies and organisations have been campaigning to shift more cargo off ever-more-crowded motorways and onto seas and rivers. An important practical milepost in this battle has been reached at the start of a new millennium. The first of three purpose-built (and 'green') ships will be sailing between Göteborg in Sweden and Zeebrugge in Belgium. 13,000dwt Spaarneborg, and later her two sisters, will be used to carry general ro-ro cargoes and are expected to save SKr200 million annually by switching from rail to sea.
A central plank of the whole new operation is the employment of the new Storaboxes, or SECUs as they are now known, which will form a large part of each cargo. They are designed to take advantage of higher allowable axle weights now possible on Swedish Railways, since cargoes will arrive in Göteborg by rail. Their maximum capacity is 70tonnes each, leading to high point loads - a factor that called for careful attention to structural detail by Flender Werft's naval architects, using their Tribon CAD/CAM software, when designing the new ships (the basic concept had been made by the Swedish consultant Globetech Marine, together with Stora, and some work had been done by Trieste-based NAOS). A Storabox has dimensions of 13.8m x 3.6m x 3.6m and is not designed for stacking.
New investment in port infrastructure to a tune of £13 million has been made by the Port of Goteborg at the Alvsborg harbour to support this new service, in particular, a new ramp system to haul Storaboxes directly over the stern onto the weather deck using translifters; there is no internal ramp to this level on board the ships. This method is understood to have been chosen because of the Storabox's loaded weight but also because the 'improved port/ship interface' (IPSI) concept recommends direct horizontal access. The main deck will be loaded over a large stern ramp, and down a ramp to the lower hold. Port tractors will have to haul a total of 110tonnes (tractor, translifter, Storabox and cargo) up the slopes involved. Because of the size and high axle weight, it is believed that Storaboxes will not at present be allowed to continue their journey by rail after arrival in Zeebrugge, so cargoes will have to be trans-shipped.
A special article on the Spaarneborg appears in The Naval Architect's February issue. This ship is also presented in Significant Ships of 1999 issue.
Full article: The Naval Architect (January 2000)