Belzona repairs propeller shaft on ship carrying Olympic torch

On May 8th, 2024, the historic Ship the Belem navigated into the bustling port city of Marseille, marking the arrival of the Olympic torch in France. Over 150,000 spectators gathered to witness as the Ship sailed into the bay, accompanied by over a thousand boats. Last year, Alliatech, one of Belzona’s French distributors, was involved in the restoration of this historical Ship.

Belzona repairs propeller shaft on ship carrying Olympic torch

2 minutes, 10 secondes

The History of the Belem

Considered to be the last great French merchant Ship, the Belem is an impressive three-mast Vessel reaching 34 metres (112 ft) tall and 58 metres (90 ft) long. As well as possessing an impressive 22 sails with a huge surface area of 1,200 m2 (1435 yd 2), it has two 575 horsepower diesel engines, blending tradition with modernity. Interestingly, carrying the Olympic flame has not been the first time the Belem has had a fire on board. The Ship caught ablaze during its maiden voyage in 1896, the same year the Olympic games were revived, on its way to Belem, a Brazilian port city and the Ship’s namesake, but it was repaired and able to continue its visit.

The Belem made her maiden voyage in 1896, the same year as the first Olympic games
The Belem made her maiden voyage in 1896, the same year as the first Olympic games

The Belem’s Olympic voyage

On Saturday 27th April, once the Olympic flame was lit in Athens, it began its 2000 km (1242 mile) journey from the port of Piraeus to Marseille. The Olympic flame was watched 24 hours a day to ensure it stayed lit and twelve days later, it reached the French coast. A celebratory event anticipating the arrival of the Ship in France featured 800 luminous drones forming a torch in the air followed by a pyrotechnic show. As the Vessel docked, an Air Force flyover featured planes drawing the Olympic rings and the colours of the French flag as over 150,000 lined the streets of Marseilles.

Case study: propellor shaft suffering from heavy corrosion

The propellor shaft on this 19th Century Naval Ship was severely damaged, suffering from heavy corrosion and pitting. The Customer was keen to preserve the shaft, given its historical significance; replacing it would be extremely costly, and they were reluctant to lose a piece of the original Vessel. It was vital that the chosen solution could reconstruct the damaged areas of the shaft and protect it from future seawater corrosion.

The Belem's propeller shaft showed heavy wear due to seawater corrosion
The Belem’s propeller shaft showed heavy wear due to seawater corrosion

Preserving History: the Belzona solution

Alliatech, a Belzona-authorised distributor with over 40 years of experience, was chosen to carry out the repair. The application took place whilst the Belem was in dry dock in the Saint-Nazaire Shipyards as part of the Ship’s extensive restorations. After grit-blasting and salt-washing the surface, the damaged propeller shaft needed to be reconstructed back to its original profile. Belzona 1111 (Super Metal), a repair composite for metal repair and resurfacing, was chosen for the rebuilding.

The Belem's propeller shaft first and second coats of Belzona 5821
Left: Propellor shaft rebuilt using Belzona 1111 (Super Metal) after first coat of Belzona 5821 – Right: Final application with the second coat of Belzona 5821

Two coats of Belzona 5821 were then applied to protect the shaft from future seawater corrosion. This product was specially designed to offer long-term protection from erosion and corrosion under immersion, thus providing excellent defence against the effects of salt water.

The application of these two Belzona products allowed the original 127-year-old shaft to be retained, avoiding the costly replacement, and maintaining a piece of history.

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