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10 October 2012

KNUD E. HANSEN: 75 Years of Ship Design

Article from Ships Monthly by Bruce Peter 16.08.12

The famous Danish naval architecture consultancy KNUD E. HANSEN has been in business for 75 years, and has produced many well known ships.

On 1 November this year, the famous Danish naval architecture consultancy KNUD E. HANSEN will celebrate their 75th anniversary. In the decades since their establishment in 1937, they are reckoned to have designed over 650 large merchant ships plus an equal number that never progressed beyond the planning stage, produced over 400 hull lines for model testing, designed and supervised more than 225 conversions and undertaken well over 1,000 surveys. Their clients have included most of the world’s best-known shipyards and shipping companies. Yet, for many ship enthusiasts, their name may be unfamiliar.

Born in Denmark in 1900, Knud Emil Thorvald Henning Hansen was an energetic and refined gentleman with an inquisitive mind. He was the son of a skipper of coastal sailing ships, and so the sea was in his blood from the outset. Hansen studied naval architecture at the Polyteknisk Læreanstalt in Copenhagen. Upon graduation in 1925, he gained experience in shipbuilding by working in a number of yards in Denmark and abroad, initially at Københavns Flydedok & Skibsværft. Thereafter, he travelled to Britain and to The Netherlands to find out about ship design practices in these countries. From 1927 until 1929, he worked in the drawing office of Burmeister & Wain in Copenhagen before he joined the staff of the Helsingør Jernskibs og Maskinbyggeri, where he remained until 1937.

From boyhood, Hansen had a passion for ships and the sea. He was particularly interested in traditional Nordic craft such as Baltic schooners, fishing cutters and Viking longships and he thought that their designs embodied lessons for latter day naval architects. For Hansen, naval architecture was not simply an engineering discipline. Instead, he believed that to design a ship was to take part in the furtherance of a Nordic cultural inheritance dating back many centuries. Indeed, the KNUD E. HANSEN logo was (and remains) a Viking longship.

On being appointed to the Helsingør Jernskibs og Maskinbyggeri, the first significant passenger ship design in which Hansen was involved was the Det Bergenske Dampskipsselskap’s Venus, a sturdy 6,269 gt motor vessel intended for North Sea service between Bergen and Newcastle.  Upon completion in 1931, she was the largest of her type trading on the North Sea and her two Burmeister & Wain diesels gave her a service speed of nineteen knots.  With intense competition from Swedish Lloyd’s Gothenburg – Tilbury route, speed was very important and the Venus was one of the fastest motor ships of her era. Her performance reduced the passage time from 27 hours to 21 hours.

Almost from the outset of his career, Knud E. Hansen was involved in short sea ferry design. Helsingør Jernskibs og Maskinbyggeri built most of the Danish State Railway, DSB’s train ferries and, although much of their planning was carried out elsewhere, he was involved in their detailed design. He was a prodigious worker who, out with office hours, began to take on private commissions to design vessels on a freelance basis. His first such project was in 1935 when he produced plans for a small excursion motor vessel, the 527 gt Sankt Ibb, which was built at Frederikshavn Værft og Flydedok A/S for the Dampskibsselskabet Øresund’s passenger only service across the Øresund between Copenhagen, Helsingborg and Mölle in Sweden.

DSB realised that car ferries represented a growing market – even though their loyalty was still to rail-connected shipping services. They decided therefore to order a new multi-purpose ferry principally to carry cars across the Great Belt, but with one track for trains (which was rarely used). Hansen designed this innovative new vessel which was named the Freia. Aalborg Værft built her hull, then she was outfitted in Helsingør. Her career was lengthy; she served in the DSB fleet until 1975, then passed to Italian owners to operate across the Bay of Naples as the Ischia Express, only being withdrawn in 2007 by which time her hull was over 70 years old.

Shortly after the Starward was completed, Wandborg began to collaborate with the Wärtsilä shipyard in Helsinki in the design and construction of the first cruise ships for Royal Caribbean and for Royal Viking Line. He was also involved in planning vessels for Overseas National Airways (actually delivered to Cunard as the Cunard Ambassador and Cunard Adventurer) and for Øivind Lorentzen and Fearnley & Eger (the Sea Venture and Island Venture) – plus others besides.

The 1973 Oil Crisis proved a bitter blow for the entire shipping industry as fuel costs quadrupled. The ensuing recession caused a lull in orders being placed for most vessel types, but soon a new generation of bigger and more efficient ferry was needed. KNUD E. HANSEN pioneered the ‘jumbo ferry’ type and Bertelsen and Rasmussen worked jointly to devise a new kind of stern configuration called a ‘twin skeg’. The propeller shafts were entirely enclosed in air-filled steel volumes protruding from the hull’s underside to create extra internal volume and, thereby, a bigger deadweight capacity. A carefully designed twin-skeg arrangement could also lessen the transfer of vibration caused by the propellers to a vessel’s aft superstructure and so it was possible to extend the passenger accommodation all the way aft. Four KNUD E. HANSEN-designed ferries for Stena Line and built by Rickmers Werft in the mid-1970s exemplified this development. Meanwhile, KNUD E. HANSEN designed large numbers of ro-ro freight ferries – including the very successful South Korean-built ‘Searunner’ class for Stena Line. From the outset, they were designed with the possibility of being lengthened, fitted with sponsons and an enclosed shelter deck, so they were extremely flexible.

The 1980s brought renewed growth and fresh cruise ship orders. Tage Wandborg planned and oversaw a radical conversion, transforming the mothballed trans-Atlantic liner France into the Norway, at that time the world’s biggest and most glamorous cruise ship. He then proposed a new vessel that would be even bigger – the Phoenix World City, with four apartment blocks, rather than a conventional superstructure. Meanwhile, his colleagues collaborated with shipyards building the Tropicale, Holiday, Royal Princess and Homeric, all of which benefited from KNUD E. HANSEN’ input. Significant ferries were also designed for Stena Line, Rederi AB Gotland, North Sea Ferries, Marine Atlantic, BC Ferries and other leading operators. Others were radically rebuilt – including a succession of second-hand purchases from Japan for ANEK Lines, beginning with the Lissos in 1987 and ending recently with the Elyros.

In the 1990s, KNUD E. HANSEN was involved in designing many of the large Mediterranean ro-pax ferries ordered by ANEK, Minoan Lines, Superfast and Moby Lines, plus Smyril Line’s uniquely robust Norröna. More recently, they have tacked a broad range of complex and diverse projects to design specialised ship types for the offshore wind energy and oil extraction businesses. Presently, they are refining a design for a new generation of ro-ro container ships for Atlantic Container Line to replace the long-serving G3 class vessels.

Today, KNUD E. HANSEN’ headquarters are in Helsingør where the current managing director, Finn Wollesen, presides over an international company with around 60 employees of all ages and many nationalities. KNUD E. HANSEN also have offices in London, Piraeus in Greece, Perth in Australia, Fort Lauderdale in the USA, and Torshavn in the Faroe Islands. During the past 75 years, their achievements have been remarkable and we wish them every success in the future.

In this article, it has only been possible to mention briefly a small fraction of the ships designed by KNUD E. HANSEN, but a new book ‘KNUD E. HANSEN: 75 Years of Ship Design’ is now avilabel.


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