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On the evening of 19 July, a group of 29 people, made up of Hong Kong branch members and guests, were given the VIP treatment during a guided tour of the bridge of the passenger cruise vessel Superstar Leo. Built in Germany, at 75,338 gt, she is the largest passenger ship operating regularly in South East Asian waters. She was specifically designed and built for cruising in the region for the Malaysian-based cruise ship operator Star Cruises, commencing service in 1998. The vessel has become very much part of the Hong Kong skyline at her berth at the Ocean terminal in Victoria Harbour.
Captain Magnus Gottberg explained the capabilities of the bridge equipment which consists of five separate work consoles, the centrepiece being the integrated navigation monitoring and propulsion control systems. Besides the screens for the colour vector electronic chart display, there are another four computer monitor screens. Other equipment, which many of the branch members in the group had not encountered while they were at sea, included the voyage data recorder, which as well as recording radar images, position data, steering and propulsion movements, has the capability to monitor the operational status of some 8,500 separate machinery alarms, and is connected to the recording camera and voice recorder at the conning position. For those in the group who had never been on a ship's bridge before, the concept of the pilot and co-pilot system, and the configuration of the conning position drew comparisons with the operation of a modern jet airliner.
A vessel the size of Superstar Leo would normally be required to have two pilots onboard for passage into Hong Kong. However, Star Cruises, the Hong Kong Marine Department and the pilots' association, have all been involved in the formulation of the vessel's harbour passage plan and contingency measures and the port of Hong Kong is one of the many port approaches that can be simulated in Star Cruises' own ship simulator at Kuala Lumpur. This means that only one senior pilot is required for the vessel. With the pilot onboard, a single tug is connected by a line and acts as an escort for the vessel, while the vessel's twin rudders, which can operate in unison or independently, along with two bow thrusters and one stern thruster, assist in manoeuvering the 268.8 m long vessel. The main propulsion is provided by 4 MAN B & W 14 V48/60 diesel engines, connected to two ABB propulsion motors and two fixed bladed 5.8m diameter propellers, which give a cruising speed when required of 25 knots.
After the bridge tour, the group enjoyed a fantastic hot buffet in the 'Galaxy of the Stars' lounge above the bridge, where everyone had a chance to meet and discuss the operation of the ship with the some of the off duty officers. The vessel's senior officers are Scandinavian, working on a 10-week-on 10-week-off schedule and are supported by Filipino and mainland Chinese junior officers. To commemorate the visit, which was long overdue, a Nautical Institute Hong Kong branch plaque was presented to the master. The trip was a resounding success and another visit to the vessel is to be planned.
Contributed by John Wilson MNI
Seaways November 2002