August 2004

With STP 1212 and paddle wheel to Alaska

The EMPRESS OF THE NORTH, designed by the American design office Guido Perla & Associates, Inc. (Seattle, WA), and built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island (Freeland, WA), is a river cruiser in the style of a 19th century Mississippi paddle steamer. With space for 235 passengers and a crew of 84, it is the second ship of this type in the fleet of the American West Steamboat Company ( Seattle , WA ).

However, the nostalgic facade of the EMPRESS conceals state-of-the-art diesel-electric propulsion technology. Powered by two GE electric motors (each 1490 kW) with two STP 1212-type SCHOTTEL Twin Propellers, she reaches a speed of 14 kn on her voyage from the Columbia River to the coast of Alaska . To reduce the ship’s drag, the paddle wheel installed in the stern is also powered with 745 kW.

Among the reasons for selecting a twin propeller design were the low pressure pulses and the resulting quiet operation of the propulsion units, as they are installed directly below a large lounge in the stern of the ship. The shallow draught of 3.6 m was also a decisive factor in favour of the twin propeller, a highly efficient propulsion concept with a small propeller diameter.

In order to allow optimal manoeuvring capability on the narrow Columbia River and in the locks there, the EMPRESS OF THE NORTH (length 109.7 m, breadth 17.8 m) has a SCHOTTEL Pump-Jet of type SPJ 220 in the bow, powered by a GE electric motor (745 kW).

The control positions on board the EMPRESS are also something special: in addition to the bridge control, two control consoles in the wings of the navigating bridge and an engine room control position, she also has a “historic” wheel house. Fitted with a ship’s wheel from the 19th century, which can be used for the synchronous steering of both STPs, this wheel house completes the illusion and takes the passengers back to the time of the first paddle steamers.