VIGOROUS CARNIVAL WORK
Walking underneath the hull of the cruise ship Legend when it was in dry dock in Portland last week gave a sense of the immensity of the job being done — not to mention the feats of engineering that keep a ship running.
The liner was balanced on a seeming knife edge. Under the flat hull ran a line of concrete blocks, perhaps five-by-five-by-four feet, holding the vessel off the ground. The ship's 88,500 tons squeezed the fibers of wooden pads on top of the concrete.
Near the ship's stern, holes about 15 feet across were cut through the steel hull so that large machinery — such as washers and dryers — could be removed for maintenance.
This floating hotel, which normally serves thousands of tourists around Australia in winter and Alaska in summer, has 1,700 people working on it during its 12-day stay in dry dock at Vigor on Swan Island. Six hundred of them are from Vigor, doing heavy work such as painting, overhauling motors and resealing the stabilizers, which are giant underwater arms that pop out from slits in the hull during high winds.
The ship arrived with 700 crew members on board. Some of them were tasked with cooking and cleaning for everyone. They took turns on fire watch, making sure the welders' sparks didn't start onboard fires. As cabins were torn up to receive new tile and carpet, workers rotated around the ship.
It was easy to tell who Carnival crew is because they wear street clothes and speak languages such as Italian, Spanish and Norwegian. In their time off they wait for the 72 TriMet bus or get cabs into town to explore and shop without a sales tax. The Vigor staff are mostly in workwear, tattooed, grimy and about a foot taller than the visitors.
The Vigor shipyard is epic in scale. Racks of bicycles and tricycles help with getting to places where walking would take too long. In a workshop, Vigor's staff overhaul the Azipod propulsions system — electrical motors that can pivot to push a ship sideways into dock. In the last 15 years, Azipods have largely done away with the need for stern thrusters, but they must still be overhauled with the oversight of the ABB Group, the original equipment manufacturer. However, Vigor engineers know how to machine new parts and replace bearings.
Much of the work had to be overseen by technicians and craftspeople from Europe because Carnival Cruise Line is a joint American and British company. Most cruise ships are built in Europe and need specialists to work on things like stainless steel, refrigeration units and pizza ovens.
It takes five coats of brown paint made by Hempel to coat the underwater areas, three of white for the rest of the ship.
A crew of 36 was painting the Legend. Genies from United Rentals competed for space in the narrow well, like giraffes feeding. One of the painters, Jeffrey Grandy, said typically he does naval vessels, like the USNS Charles Drew, which was looking fresh in the Willamette.
"It's a five-coat system, using robotics and 40k water jetting," Grandy said. He noted they were using rollers on the higher parts of the ship because spray guns blow paint around.
"There are environmental rules. We can't have overspray going in the river, we have birds, fish and everything in the river."
He said it was looked hectic two days earlier when six-foot-long robots with magnetic wheels had been crawling up the ship spraying water at high pressure to remove the old paint.
Everywhere there is the drone of generators, crane engines and beeping. Men blow referee whistles to alert each other of hazards over the din.
Cranes flew balconies, one by one, up to the cabins. There are 113 to place, plus more than 200 French windows. The only way to get them up there is by crane.
The really big cranes are also in use
because so much material is being loaded on to the ship and so much trash hauled away.
Vigor's senior project manager Mike
Nutter said more than 240 standard 20-foot containers — the sort you see on the back of 18-wheelers — were hauled onto the ship and hauled off full of old materials such
as carpet and fixtures. Others came from around the world with new items, such as the fixtures for a Guy's Burgers (a Guy Fieri burger bar). It's all part of the refreshing of the experience, according to Vance Gullikesn of Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines. Some containers, with the doors open, look like mini workshops, with tools and supplies all ready for use.
Tony Bustos, a rigging supervisor, makes hundreds of lifts a day to get supplies on board the ship. "They're rebuilding the pools, the restaurants, the windows and doors...we've had pallets of stuff," he says. A logistics firm tells him and his riggers where to drop stuff.
Another rigger, David Webster, accompanied the Business Tribune reporter and photographer up in a basket to observe from above. (Vigor's in-house photographer Craig Alness sat this one out. "I have a drone for that now," he said.) From there it was possible to better see where the $45 million is being spent. There were crews working to seal the floor around the mini swimming pool, while others welded and sanded. The waterslides were being relined as well.
The decks were strewn with building materials and packages. Webster directed the crane operator with hand signals and radio commands. (He used to operate a crane
at Gundersen, the barge and railcar maker just across the river. He says he now makes better money in his union job at Vigor.)
Locals with maritime experience are doing some of the work, such as tile and carpet laying, but the serious technical work belongs to Vigor. Juan Jose Samaniego, a technician with Maritime Diesel Electric of Tamarac, Florida, is a specialist contractor in a crew of 15 brought in to oversee the engine refit. "We specialize in European equipment," he said. "Dry dock is the time to fix things in the back of the hotel, the major stuff that you wouldn't do in front of guests." He said it was a very European crew and lots of the officers are Italian or Croatian. "They respect rank, the chief engineer, the captain, we all know who they are."
JJ, as he's known, said Vigor and
Carnival has "a beautiful bond," around issues of safety and professionalism. They have been staying in the Hotel Rose
downtown, which he was impressed was so dog friendly, and often eating at Tilt on Swan Island.
Their next stop is Los Angeles, another cruise ship, another engine overhaul.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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