By Francesco Galli Zugaro
As we fly headfirst into April, we want to give our guests and travel partners an update on the construction of the Aqua Mekong, our newest vessel at Aqua Expeditions, now underway and fully on schedule at Triyards Shipyard in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City. With our reservations team now actively booking Aqua Mekong cruises, we thought you would enjoy an exciting behind-the-scenes tour of the construction of the Aqua Mekong.
Welcome to our shipyard! Here I am with a few members of our construction team at the Aqua Mekong Steel Cutting Ceremony. This marks the beginning of the post-design ship building process and Aqua Expedition’s first foray into ship building in Asia.
This photo shows the beginnings of Block 210 in the main workshop of the yard. As some of you familiar with the building process for the Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon may note, this is quite a different set-up from the building our two Amazon vessels which were constructed in an open-air shipyard on the banks of the Amazon River. Here you can see the scale and calibre of some of the Vietnamese shipyard’s other projects – our project lies in the shadows of an enormous oil rig support vessel with a clearly visible helipad in the background. Note that even for our much smaller 20-suite cruise ship, our hull blocks need to be lifted and manoeuvred using 50 ton cranes (see the top of the picture).
I love this photo – the people, the lights, the sparks – it gives you a real sense of the amount of activity taking place in the building process. This photo shows Block 200, which will be the main engine room in the luxury Aqua Mekong cruiseship. In its final state, the engine room will be inverted, with the height tailing off at the rear so the ship can glide easily into the water. Even at this early stage, hatches have been cut to easily slot in the engines and there is space cut for the stairwell.
This is an alternate view of Blocks 200 and 210 – here you can really see the tapering off of the engine room structure and behind it, men starting to work on Block 210. Eventually these Blocks will be positioned in a different order, and welded together to form part of the hull.
These shots show the sheer manpower that it takes to bring the Aqua Mekong shipbuilding project to life. The piece on the floor in both photographs is the roof of Block 210, which will be the foundation for the main deck.
The Aqua Mekong’s hull will be made up of five individual blocks of steel, that will finally be welded together to create a strong, sturdy superstructure. This is Block 220 on its way into the Blasting Hall where an anti-corrosion treatment and surface protection is applied to ensure that the block is hard-wearing, tough and can spend a long time in the waters of the Mekong River before needing any refurbishment.
After the treatment, the Block 220 makes its way from the Blasting Hall into the main workshop where the hull will be erected and sealed. Transportation of blocks this size, even between neighbouring areas in the shipyard is an incredibly skilled task. This flatbed truck holds the 50 ton block and is controlled by one highly skilled worker.
Here is one of our guys welding in between the blocks – his fully protective mask guards his eyes from the extreme brightness of the welding torch. Sparks are flying!
Here is a great photo of some of the Aqua Mekong construction team at Triyards Shipyard in Ho Chi Minh City, the hard working men we have partnered with for the building the Aqua Mekong. They have been meticulously shaping each block of the hull to construct the durable shell for our finished cruise ship. This is the fully completed Block 220 now ready for the completion of the build process.
This is me with Kim Loan Le to my left (our Country Manager) and Luc Lejeune (our interior designer) at the keel laying ceremony for Aqua Mekong. This traditional blessing can only occur on certain days, when a series of astrological signs are aligned. Special gifts are brought as offerings for the blessing. Here we have bread, fruit, marigolds, incense, sugar and lots of money! There is even a suckling pig just out of view. With this blessing and the ongoing efforts of our committed international team at Aqua Expeditions, we are very much looking forward to the Fall 2014 launch of the Aqua Mekong.
We will be sharing more of our ship building story with you over the months to come, so please continue to visit LIVE FROM THE RIVER and share this on social media or via email with your friends and family so that they too can join in the fun as the Aqua Mekong comes to life!