Jun 11 2013

Is this the new way to launch ships?

Whenever I have seen a ship being launched in the past, it has always slid into the water stern first and it is usually pretty smooth and graceful. In this video, the ship was launched sideways and went into the water like a diver’s belly flop, splashing water over a vast area that not only soaked spectators who tried to run away but sent debris flying dangerously toward them. It is a wonder no one was hurt. For a moment I thought that the ship had actually capsized.

Here is a view from another angle.

You can see even more dramatic footage of the launch from other angles here.

The nonchalant behavior of the hard-hatted workers suggests that this went as planned. Does anyone know if this is how ships are launched these days?


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  1. 1

    Yeah, I’ve seen footage of others launched sideways.

  2. 2
    Steve Cuthbertson

    Ships have been launched this way for decades, maybe centuries. I used to go to launchings with my father, a marine fitter, forty years ago. There was the occasional hairy moment, but generally a good time was had by all!

  3. 3

    ide Oiled Slideway Launching

    ship side launch

    The side oiled slideway launching system is also one of the most widely used ship launching systems. This type of system is mainly of two types.

    “In the first type, the slideway extends into the water and the ship slides into the water using the slideway. In the second method the slideway doesn’t go until the water and the ship along with the frame slides into the water. The ship then becomes steady based on its own buoyancy and stability factors. Such launching requires the ship to have great stability and strength.”

  4. 4

    The Great Eastern (at 211m long) was launched this way in 1858. Hardly a new idea.

  5. 5

    The audio: “May God bless this ship and everybody who sails on her.” Well. there’s your problem right there!

  6. 6

    Indeed! They forgot to bless the crew of that second camera angle!

  7. 7
    Mano Singham

    Thanks to all who pointed out that this is an old and standard way to launch ships. But it still boggles my mind. I can’t believe that there is no way to slide it more smoothly into the water.

  8. 8
    Rob Grigjanis

    Launched this way into a narrow channel, it won’t bump into the far side.

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    I wonder what would happen if someone christening a ship christened it “Petunia” or something. Would they just pretend it hadn’t happened?

  10. 10
    Marcus Ranum

    I believe that part of the idea is that if the ship is seaworthy it won’t roll over. Ships at sea can be battered worse than that – I have friend who was on a destroyer in some nasty weather and apparently it was pretty unbelievable what the ship took. So it’s a sort of a test.

  11. 11

    “I can’t believe that there is no way to slide it more smoothly into the water.”

    To what advantage? Done as shown, a large ship can be launched in a narrow waterway.

    As far as the flying debris and spray, I believe that the camera was set there entirely for effect. No one with legitimate access to the weighs would be stupid enough to stand there.

  12. 12

    It’s probably done that way because building large drydocks (which can be filled with water and sailed out) are too expensive or consume too many resources.

  13. 13

    As has been pointed out the SS Great Eastern was launched (eventually) this way. The reason being this way you can build a large ship and launch her on a narrow waterway such as the thames river in the Great Eastern’s case.

  14. 14

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