Placement of the boilers and turbines

The propulsion plant on the ROTTERDAM is placed in a completely different position than that on the NIEUW AMSTERDAM II (1938, 36,287 GRT), in which the engines and boilers were spread out over two-thirds of the ship’s length. The older ship had two imposing smokestacks, the first of which dealt with the exhaust from the boilers. This had the disadvantage that a great deal of soot was deposited on the afterdecks, and that the stacks and the trunks which led to them consumed a great deal of deck space, which had a considerable effect upon the layout of the ship’s passenger spaces. The NIEUW AMSTERDAM II was, unfortunately, scrapped in 1974.


It was realized in the early 1950’s as the concept of the ROTTERDAM was being developed that the ship’s interior divisions should be completely different from the NIEUW AMSTERDAM II. This took into account new insights into the division of passenger classes, and the desire to reduce or eliminate the depositing of soot on the ship’s afterdecks. As a consequence, the designers chose to place the ship’s propulsion machinery as far aft as possible. This had the happy result of placing the smokestacks far enough aft to greatly decrease the chances of soot landing on the decks. The main advantage of the aft placement of the machinery was, however, the greater amount of passenger space created forward in the ship. There are two dining saloons placed one behind the other on the comparatively low B-deck and there are fewer and smaller trunks between the engine spaces and the stacks which pass through the intervening decks.

Arrival in Rotterdam in August 1968 picture collection Roel Valbracht

Advances in steam engineering (boiler rooms became smaller and therefore the exhaust gasses could be carried through a single, smaller shaft) and an evolution in esthetics (an image of luxury and elegance superseding that of power and speed) had already led to the single, midships placement of a single funnel being seen as the norm. The development in 1951 of the EL DJEZAIR, a French ship of modest size, heralded the tendency for the propulsion installation including the boiler rooms and smokestack to be placed far aft. This development undoubtedly was stimulated by the similar placement of the propulsion machinery in most of the steadily increasing number of oil tankers being built at this time. Propeller shafts could be drastically shortened while in the midships area costly square footage became available which, in the case of passenger ships, translated into greater freedom in the layout of cabins and public rooms. The real breakthrough in this concept came in 1955 with the launch of the English Shaw Savill Line’s SOUTHERN CROSS (20,204 GRT), built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast. The most famous example is the CANBERRA (45,733 GRT) which was delivered from the same shipbuilders to the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the P&O. Our ROTTERDAM fits between these two liners, both chronologically (she was built in 1959) as well as in size (38,645 GRT). Conceptually, she provides an interesting variation on their theme.