SURVEYOR'S NOTEBOOK

Rattling the Cage of Preconceived Notions in Design

By Rik van Hemmen


It is always important to ask “why” about every detail in every design, since bad design imposes a penalty on every user for the life of the bad design.

Bad design can hang around forever even if good design exists. I often ask “why?” when I am forced to use a badly designed cleat on a boat when we have a near perfect design in the 100 year old Herreshoff cleat.

We don’t come across enough of these “why’s”, but I came across a nice one a few days ago.

Design “why’s” can change the world, although not always.

About 60 years ago somebody asked “why” and the Holland America Liner Rotterdam was built with a double helix staircase, because it would allow rapid liner to cruise ship reconfiguration.

About 50 years ago Malcolm McLean asked: Why do I have to unload my truck to load the cargo on the ship and then to load it on a truck again?

About 40 years ago somebody asked: “Why do we not just load river barges on ships and then deliver the loaded barges to the river across the ocean? This “why” sprung LASH ships. LASH ships came and went and the “went” part is complicated.

About 20 years ago somebody asked: “Why do we have hatchcovers on container ships?”

Hatchcoverless container ships were built, but have not taken off. The hatch coverless container ship did not solve the nuisance of hatch covers and possibly, as time goes on, we will arrive at other simpler, or more complex, solutions.

A few years ago, Hannah asked me: “Why do we even purify Heavy Fuel Oil aboard ships?” Great “why”, and maybe we will see a change in the future.

A few days ago I came across a picture of the “Vision of the Fjords” built and designed by Bodrene Aa in Hyen, Norway. In my mind’s eye this is a lovely design, it is carbon fiber and it has a meaningful hybrid drive setup. But somebody must have said “why” about ladders, since it does not appear to have any ladders. Instead it is fitted with long ramps in the way of side decks.

What I like best is that the side decks actually stimulate the interior design of the vessel. Too often boats with side decks have boring interiors, but, as judged by the photo that I copied off the builder’s website, this vessel has a really nice interior.

Also, on sightseeing vessels, people hanging on the rails can block the view from inside, but here there are many more viewing angles (although it may be a little strange to view fjords between a person’s legs).

I have not technically evaluated the design in US passenger ship terms, but I like the idea.

Will it become a new standard for sightseaing (bad pun intended) vessels?

The design will only pay off if the ramps are ADA compliant (maybe), if the ramp design meets USCG egress requirements (maybe) and if the construction cost is competitive (quite possibly).

Meanwhile it is a delight to behold and I thank Brodrene Aa for making me see “Why?” on shipboard ladders and ramps.

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