An outstanding appearance on the world’s oceans

The position of the ROTTERDAM’s propulsion machinery was in large part determined by the desire to place the ship’s dining saloons midships and as low as possible. The machinery was therefore displaced toward the rear of the ship, but considerably less so than in the examples named earlier. There were two important reasons why the machinery was not placed completely aft:

1. As with most passenger ships, the ROTTERDAM has a number of cargo holds with their associated hatches. Because the handling of cargo would be facilitated by the separation of these hatches, it was decided to place the aftermost cargo hold, number three, behind the ship’s superstructure.

2. Secondly, great importance was placed on the traditional, step-wise configuration of the aft end of the ship’s superstructure, making possible the broad sundecks and the popular outdoor swimming pool on the afterdeck.

These considerations also meant that the boilers would be placed forward of the engine room, as was formerly the norm. This new placement of the machinery demanded a creative solution to the layout of the engine room. The aft end of a ship has, of course, less space than the midships area. The narrower and lower engine room led to the division of the two main turbine groups into three smaller sections. The end result was the ship’s characteristic “two-thirds aft” position of the funnel, or rather what the funnel would become…

ss-rdam-vancouver-29-sep-1996-peter-knegoThe ss Rotterdam at Vancouver, September 29 1996.  Picture courtesy Peter Knego

It was realized that the placement of the funnel in this position created something of an esthetic problem which cried out for a solution. The ship’s silhouette threatened to become unbalanced, as occurred with the EL DJEZAIR, the SOUTHERN CROSS (later: OCEAN BREEZE), and the CANBERRA. It seems that ship designers first became conscious of this problem with the ROTTERDAM. It was reasoned that the “two-thirds aft” position was not the place for a traditional funnel, or, to turn it around, a traditional stack would look out of place in this position.

Picture Klaas Krijnen

The ROTTERDAM would receive two slender exhausts placed side by side. This leads many people to feel that the ROTTERDAM has no funnel, which is unjust. The funnels just have a different appearance than one is used to seeing. The great advantages which accrued from the chosen solution were, as stated, twofold: virtual elimination of soot deposition on the afterdecks, and, because of the slenderness of the trunks leading up to the stacks, their presence was barely noticed within the ship. A dummy funnel could have been placed amidships in the traditional position, as was done with the ARGENTINA and BRASIL (1958, 15,256 GRT – later taken into the HAL fleet as the VEENDAM and VOLENDAM). Instead, a more integrated solution was designed in the form of a small but strongly profiled deckhouse.


The midship’s deckhouse on Bridgedeck¬† picture Klaas Krijnen

The Sky Room was situated within this deckhouse, as were some mechanical spaces, as well as an open observation platform. At the same time, this deckhouse marked a gap in the line of lifeboats and thereby created a visual “pull” which no funnel could have offered. Those who at the time felt that although the ship had a fine profile she appeared “unfinished”, sold the designers decidedly short. This original and elegant design earned the ROTTERDAM an exceptional place in international marine architecture.

Picture Klaas Krijnen

A great deal of serious thought was given to the exterior design of the CANBERRA as well, although a completely different design solution was chosen. The midships area was in this case left open; the similarly divided smokestacks found their visual counterweight in a deckhouse which was placed farther forward and which contained the navigating bridge, among other spaces. Another solution is also worth mentioning. The Swedes traditionally adorned their transatlantic (motor-) ships with two traditional funnels. Of these, only the aft funnel was functional as a smoke exhaust. The exterior of these ships exhibited a classical simplicity.