Construction of the world’s biggest handmade wooden ship is well underway, as the work progresses at the Jiangsu Longjiang Shipbuilding company in Nanjing. The vessel, which is a replica of the Admiral Zheng He’s 15th Century treasure ship, is expected to hit the waters in 2014.
The ancient design of the ship will be supported by advanced technologies so as to meet the requirements of the present day navigation standards and ensure the crew’s safety.
As the Maritime Professional news site writes, “The ship’s mast will be 38 meters tall, and its six sails, when they are unfurled, will cover an area of 600 square meters,” Zhao Zhigang, general manager of Jiangsu Longjiang Shipbuilding said.
The construction is taking place with the help of craftsmen from families that make traditional wooden ships and it forms part of the observance of China’s Maritime Day, which was held recently to mark the anniversary of Zheng He’s first voyage in 1405.
This shipbuilding endeavor evokes the memory of Zheng He, the Chinese Muslim admiral of the 15th century, who ranks as perhaps the country’s foremost adventurer. Chinese shipbuilding tradition traces back five hundred years to the times when enormous wooden ships were sent to exploration missions across the world’s oceans.
Zheng He’s ships were impressive examples of naval engineering. His so-called treasure ships (which brought back to China such things a giraffes from Africa) were 400 feet long. Columbus’s flagship the St. Maria, in contrast, was 85 feet in length. Zheng He’s treasure ships displaced no less than 10,000 tons and had an aspect ratio (width – length) of 0.254; in other words “the supertankers of their day.”
“The construction of the ship provides a chance to revive traditional Chinese shipbuilding techniques,” Zhigang said.
The life expectancy of the ship is said to range from 30 to 50 years, if well maintained. A captain, boatswain and chief engineer for the ship are to be chosen by the end of this year.
Shipbuilding Tribune Staff, July 16, 2012