Wednesday, July 1, 2020

109 Year Old Grand Old Dame Returns Home as Good as the Day She Sailed Away

Labour of Love to Recover Lost Glories
Shipping News Feature

GERMANY – A grand old dame of the seas has been returned to her former glory and next month will become the museum ship of the German Port Museum in Hamburg, returning home at last after sailing out from the port 109 years previously. The ship has the most chequered of histories and was bought back by her home country eight years ago for a nominal $100!

The Peking was one of the famed Flying P-Liners, built for F Laeisz Shipping by Blohm+Voss in 1911 and went on first to carry saltpetre from Europe to Chile by way of Cape Horn only to be handed as a repatriation payment to Italy after the Great War, then bought back by Laeisz in 1923 before resuming service until 1932 when the Great Depression resulted in her sale to a British charity and she became a training ship, registered as the Arethusa II. After being STUFT (Ship Taken Up From Trade) in the 1940s to see a war from the other side, she carried out active service as a troop ship as HMS Peking.

In 1974 the four-masted, steel-hulled vessel found herself as an exhibition piece in New York until 2012 when, tired, old and less than seaworthy she was bought by Germany and shipped across the Atlantic five years later atop the heavy lift ship Combi Dock III, to moor up at Peters Weft in Wewelsfleth, where she began a €32 million makeover to bring her back to her former glory.

The 115.5 metre long, full-rigged barque needed more than just a coat of ordinary paint however. since the vessel would not be trading, operating only as a stationary structure, a hull coating with a 25-year lifetime and capable of providing three-year overcoating intervals was required. So as to avoid environmental impact at the future berth, the use of an antifouling paint was not permitted, adding to the project’s complexity.

Firstly the hull’s internal and external areas had to be grit blasted to Sa 2 grade to achieve a clean but porous surface, which was not so straightforward given the lower third of hull was filled with concrete ballast. Blasting was carried out with the entire ship under canvas to safeguard against any environmental pollution, which was also necessary to remove any hazardous materials in any older coatings. Special attention also had to be paid to the riveted areas and overlaps with the ship under the care of Nippon Paint Marine before a complex programme of protection began.

Once blasted, Nippon’s Uniprotector, a corrosion-resistant two coat epoxy primer pigmented with aluminium, was applied to improve penetration capability and to extend the maximum overcoating intervals by an additional 6 months. The original rivets and plank overlaps, which were to remain as visible as possible, benefitted from an additional stripe-coat of EPOBARR, a solvent-free, fibre-containing epoxy filler, prior to the application of the topcoat.

It was agreed that NEOGUARD 100 GF, a durable, high-solid glass flake epoxy, would be the most suitable coating for the underwater areas of the hull. This was applied in two-coats to provide a total film thickness of 350µm. Olaf Toebke, Director, Nippon Paint Marine (Europe), said:

“This system was selected because it provides long-term protection with high impact and abrasion resistance. However, the underwater areas had to be completely primed, protected and coated at an early stage of the restoration project to allow the temporary re-floating of the vessel.

Two 150µm coats of company’s E-MARINE A/C were then applied to the Peking’s topsides, decks and rigs/masts, to provide an unlimited maximum overcoating intervals before Nippon’s U-MARINE Finish was applied in a semi-gloss shade. When the vessel dry docked in 2017, after transportation from New York to the Elbe aboard the Combi Dock III, the ship was so dilapidated that its condition shocked the team at Peters Werft. It was the most run-down vessel the yard had ever seen. Niklas Pfaff, Project Manager, Peters Werft GmbH, commented:

“We must admit that we were shocked at the condition of the ship when it came to the yard, but we are immensely proud to have been selected to work on this historically important vessel. Our task was to carry out the restoration, but not make her seaworthy again. We worked in close cooperation with our contractors and the vessel’s owner, and learned a lot about the beauty of this historic freight carrying sailing ship.

”We made it our task to keep the original structure where possible, and to make it visible, where possible. We are very impressed how Nippon Paint Marine contributed to finding practical ways to match the special coatings requirements and working procedures of this ambitious project.”

In addition to the extensive paint job, Peters Werft restored the original hull form and was able to retain most of the riveted steel plates using contemporary welding and modern ship repair techniques. All decks, compartments and interiors have been restored. Masts and rigging had to be partly restored and renewed. Commenting on the success of the project, Olaf Toebke paid tribute to all those involved.

“We are privileged to have been involved in this fascinating project, the success of which is testament to the open co-operation, communication and professionalism of all those involved, including engineering contractors Technolog Services GmbH, and Detlev Löll Ingenieurbüro, ship owner Stiftung Maritim Hamburg, and the shipyard.”

When restoration works are complete next month, Peking will berth in the Hansahafen opposite to the new opera house Elbphilharmonie to undergo final preparations before the move to her final place where she will operate as the museum ship of the future German Harbour Museum. Of the 65 Flying P-Liners built only the Peking and three of her siblings survive.

Photo: The Peking as she looks now in her restored form with (inset) how she arrived in Hamburg and the Peters Werft facility on the Elbe. (Images courtesy of ship owner Stiftung Hamburg Maritim.