VIDEO: Quark celebrates launch of new expedition ship

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Aerial photo of Ultramarine in the water after its launch from slipway in Split, Croatia. ​

Quark Expeditions, Seattle, Wash., this week marked a major milestone in the construction of its technologically-advanced polar vessel, Ultramarine, with a traditional launch ceremony that also honored the shipbuilding team at Croatia’s Brodosplit shipyard.

The 125 meter long, 199 passenger expedition cruise ship is being built to a design by Sembcorp Marine’s Bergen, Norway, headquartered subsidiary LMG Marin.

Tomislav Debeljak, owner and CEO of the DIV Group, which includes Brodosplit, the largest shipyard in Croatia, was joined by shipyard godmother Andrea Mutak (from the Split-based children’s charity Udruga Andeli—Association of Angels), dignitaries and Brodosplit employees as Ultramarine entered the water for the very first time.

“Today’s launch ceremony is a time-honored shipyard tradition,” said Andrew White, president, Quark Expeditions. “That very moment when ‘ship first meets water’ is a major milestone for any vessel. The sound of Ultramarine’s hull entering the water from slipway No. 2 into Supaval Bay signified we’re one step closer to exploring the polar regions on this game-changing ship. But, of course, it’s not just any ship that we’re celebrating today—but a ship built specifically for polar exploration. Ultramarine will be an unrivaled operational base for exploring the polar regions in ways never thought possible.”

“While the star of today is Ultramarine, the ceremony also honors a cast of people without whom this vessel would never exist: the Brodosplit shipyard team,” says White. “Following a tradition that goes back to earlier times, a shipyard godmother—different from the godmother who eventually christens the ship—is chosen for this ‘working launch.’ Traditionally, this godmother has an affiliation with the shipyard community, which is important to us because today’s launch is our way of celebrating the community of engineers, naval architects, welders, structural fabricators, riggers, electricians and all of the other shipyard crew who had a hand in the launch of this expedition vessel–which will change the way we explore the Polar Regions.”

“The launch of any ship is complex and once underway, uncontrolled until the vessel is attached to tugs standing by,” says Malcolm Ellis, Senior Vice-President, Operations for Quark Expeditions. “The total time involved from trigger release until the vessel is stopped in the water is little more than a minute or two. Yet, the potential for damage in that time period is greater than at any time during the ship’s many years of service. The stress placed on a vessel during launch is probably the highest it will experience in its lifetime. No rehearsal is possible.”

Ultramarine will carry two twin-engine helicopters, 20 quick-launching Zodiacs, and what Quark Expeditions calls “the most robust portfolio of off-ship adventure options in the entire industry.”

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