Tharsis, a Kaapcoaster 2300, the first of her type, specially developed for coastal sea/river trading, was built by the Dutch Shipyard De Kaap for Tharsis Shipping. The Kaapcoaster is a 2300 DWT multipurpose coaster with a very limited draught, low air draught and two electric propulsion units. Tharsis is the first of a generation of new ‘green concept’ coasters with very economic fuel consumption. The vessel has flexible loading facilities, making it suitable for most general cargoes such as steel coils, timber, coal, grain and dangerous cargo (IMDG prepared), it can also carry containers below deck and on the hatch covers two tiers high.

Maartje van den Heuvel-Schwagermann and Mariska de Jonge, the spouses of the new owners, performed the naming ceremony of Tharsis in Meppel on Saturday 25 August 2012. The coaster was officially handed over to the families Bosma and Van den Heuvel in September 2012. In the meantime the vessel has successfully completed its first trips between Duisburg, Germany and Goole, England. For the next five years Tharsis Shipping has a charter contract with Rhenus Maritime Services GmbH (RMS).

Shipyard De Kaap in Meppel

Scheepswerf De Kaap in Meppel has a close relationship with Scheepswerven Bodewes in Hasselt; they collaborate in many areas, beneficial for both the companies, themselves and their customers. Despite being completely separate and autonomous, both shipyards are property of the managing director of Bodewes, Thecla Bodewes.

De Kaap is specialised in building and maintenance of commercial vessels, for inland and coastal shipping. They are experts in lightweight inland vessels and seagoing low air draught coasters of up to 135 metres with a breadth of 13.50 metres, of which Tharsis is an excellent example. Having a transverse slipway of 110 metres, the shipyard can easily facilitate repair jobs on small to relatively large ships. All ships De Kaap produce, have low fuel consumption and reduced exhaust gas emission, while propulsion fuel systems range from hydrogen to diesel-electric. To accommodate the transport of metal coils, the vessels are designed with a reinforced tank top in way of the cargo hold. The entire bottoms of the coasters are also strengthened to allow for ‘drying out’, as can/will happen frequently in English ports. The low air draught offers the possibility to sail most main West-European waterways, including the Rhine and its tributaries, as well as the Rhine-Herne Canal.

Though the major trend is to have bare hulls made at low cost in Poland or Rumania and outfit them in the Netherlands, Bodewes (and thus De Kaap) will have no such thing.

Shipyard De Kaap, Meppel, the Netherlands
Tharsis Sea-River Shipping, Delfzijl, the Netherlands
Principal particulars
Length o.a. 87.95 m
Length p.p. 84.45 m
Beam max 11.31 m
Depth to main deck 5.80 m
Draught, ballast 2.91 m
Draught, service 3.70 m
Air draught, ballast 6.09 m
Air draught, loaded 5.30 m
Speed, service 10.1 knots
Gross tonnage 1,787 gt
Nett tonnage 633 nt
Displacement 3,350 t
Lightweight 986 t
Deadweight 2,350 dwt
Cargo holds 3,289 m3
Tank capacities
Fuel oil 91.8 m3
Lubricating oil 1.9 m3
Dirty oil 2.0 m3
Fresh water 18.8 m3
Ballast water 1,405 m3
Bilge water 2.0 m3
Black and grey water 12.0 m3


No 7 MbH Okt-Nov voor Website.jpg 54 1Tharsis Shipping

Tharsis Shipping is a family (owned) company, specialising in the transport of raw material, semi-manufactured products and high quality aluminum or steel end products directly from the European inland to all European ports. The company is committed to meeting the specific demands of freight and shipping companies by using low air draught ships. The crews have specialist knowledge of sea, coast, as well as river shipping and are certified to sail these areas without the use of Register Pilots. Jan-Albert Bosma states proudly: “We are even certified pilots for the Humber river in England. So we are completely independent and thus low cost. With our sea-river vessels we create a time advantage and prevent costly damages to cargo by skipping an important link in the door-to-door concept, namely the storage and transshipment in seaports.”

Tharsis and her crew will take a major role in this market and the recycling of aluminum. While in the Netherlands we use tin cans, in Germany and England actual aluminum is used. Tharsis will transport waste aluminum cans (compressed and stored on pallets) from Duisburg to Goole. The return cargo, as can be expected, are chunks of recycled aluminum, back to Duisburg. Here these chunks are transformed into coils of aluminum sheet, which is a very delicate cargo. The coils are then transported to manufacturers to turn it into high quality end products.

No 7 MbH Okt-Nov voor Website.jpg 54 2What’s in a name?

The name Tharsis (today also a volcanic plateau on Mars) is the Greco-Latin transliteration of the biblical Tarshish, the land at the western extremity of the known world. However, the name is sometimes also used in more general terms, the Bible refers to ships of Tarshish as large ships intended for long voyages. The term tarshish may also be derived from the Greek tarsos, which is the name for an oar used in ancient ships. On the Mediterranean Sea, ships that used only sails were often left stranded without wind, while ships with oars could continue their voyage. Therefore, trading ships most likely would have used oarsmen rather than sails. Around 1665, the followers of Shabbatai Zvi in Izmir interpreted the ships of Tarshish as Dutch ships that would transport them to the Holy Land. Whatever the true meaning behind the name Tharsis, all the above mentioned explanations feel like a good omen.

Traditions and history

Both De Kaap and Tharsis Shipping appreciate traditions and so it is not surprising the two collaborated in building a new Tharsis. The history in coastal shipping of the Bosma family dates way back. Their success story and the concept of their trade starts in the days of, what was called, the ‘Denmark Trade’ or the ‘Denmark Crusaders’. The sixties was a turning point for the smaller trading and coastal vessels, a difficult two decennia started in which especially the fleet in the Northern part of the Netherlands was considerably reduced (with almost 2/3). In the seventies the government introduced measures to prevent the complete disappearance of this part of the Dutch shipping industry. One of the measures was creating new (fiscal) laws, stimulating people to invest in the shipping industry. With these laws, of course, came the inevitable loopholes. One of these loopholes created favourable conditions that enabled inland vessels to be used in the coastal area around Denmark. From this moment on the inland vessels were able to compete with the official commercial sea vessels, without having to comply with all sorts of requirements for the smaller trading vessels. In the years that followed they were gradually legalised and became part of the ‘new’ coastal shipping industry.

It was during that time that the ancestors of JanAlbert Bosma built their first Tharsis, believe it or not, at Shipyard De Kaap. The second Tharsis, was a modified second-hand vessel and now in 2012 the families Bosma and Van den Heuvel again built a new Tharsis, number three, based on the experience gained with the first two vessels. Again they chose De Kaap, for its craftsmanship, quality and the ability to listen to the experience of the Bosma family to build a coaster based on their specific requirements, but incorporating new technologies, present rules and regulations.

Compare the market

In almost forty years, however, the market has changed and now we have short sea shipping. The modern term short sea shipping refers to the historical term coastal trade, which encompasses the movement of cargo (and passengers) mainly by sea, without directly crossing an ocean. Some short sea shipping vessels, like Tharsis, are small enough to travel inland on inland waterways. The main advantages of this type of shipping are alleviation of congestion, reduced air pollution and overall cost savings to the shipper and a government. In Europe the main hub and congestion spot of short sea shipping is Rotterdam, the largest European port. This has led to the development of hybrid (inland rivers, coastal area and sea) vessels capable of navigating the sea as well as the rivers and canals. The locks and bridges of the Dutch (and Belgian) main a waterways (Maas, Waal, Amsterdam-Rhine E Canal, Scheldt) are built to suit the demand. In g addition the congestion has caused a number of small ports to be developed. The same is true for the Rhine-ports such as Duisburg and Dortmund in Germany.

In the Netherlands the sector has seen rapid growth, aided by a tax enabled investment scheme. The traditional region for building coasters is the province of Groningen (and the area around), where most wharfs have side-laying slipways. No longer is Denmark the ‘promised land’, now a specific niche market operating coasters between Duisburg, Germany and Goole, England is the focus.

No 7 MbH Okt-Nov voor Website.jpg 54 3The green concept

Tharsis has been designed to specific operational criteria, however environmental (green) considerations also played their part. Two Leroy Somer electric motors of 375 kW at 1,800 rpm each, with gearboxes, are the main propulsion. The Reintjes gearboxes drive fixed pitch propellers via shafts. The resulting service speed of the vessel is around ten knots. The propulsion units in combination with the ‘barn door’ rudders and an electrically driven bow thruster give the vessel good manoeuvrability, which is indispensable in the smaller ports and rivers that Tharsis will operate. The power is produced by three Volvo Penta/Leroy Somer main generator sets of 400 kW. Diesel-electric propulsion was also selected because of its reduced exhaust gas emissions; the power management system, designed by D&A Electric, will configure the number of generators to match the requirement at any time. As a result the vessel consumes substantially less fuel than similar vessels with conventional diesel propulsion. The flexibility and these characteristics are beneficial for the specific purpose and route that Tharsis Shipping will be operating; leading to optimised logistical time schedules and the tides they will encounter en route. A Caterpillar 51.5 kW generator provides emergency power.

No 7 MbH Okt-Nov voor Website.jpg 54 4Tharsis particular characteristics

As stated above, Tharsis was based on the previous two vessels ofthe Bosma family. Nevertheless some of the proven design features had to be adapted to meet current rules and regulations. This version is thus an optimisation of previous vessels, practical experience and regulatory evolution, resulting in an already successful formula.

One of the stipulations for the design was the height limitation or ‘low air draught’. This was obtained by an adjustable height wheelhouse.

In lowered position the top of the wheelhouse remains below nine metres above base, while in ‘working-mode’ it can be raised by approximately three metres. To achieve the optimal result the main mast is hinged and the size of the funnel was reduced to an absolute minimal (and even now the funnel also has removable top parts).To emphasise the height restriction even more, the hatch cover crane was redesigned by Coops & Nieborg in such a way that it can be lowered by removing (part of) the hatch coaming. All aspects are thus optimised to achieve ultimate (height) space usage.

An interesting, if intriguing, detail is the design of the forward mast. This, in fact, is not a mast, but a crane to lift cars on and off the vessel.

Minor modifications, add a spreader and some lights, and nobody will notice the difference; the result: a multi-functional hinged foremast-crane-combination. As a result of the diesel-electric configuration in combination with an improved hull shape, the cargo hold is basically one large space. This large box shaped space, if so desired, can be separated into smaller units by means of bulkheads. For this purpose the vessel is equipped with two grain bulkheads that can be fitted in five different positions. The hold is also equipped with ample ventilation and prepared for a CO2 fire extinguishing installation so transport of dangerous goods is also an option.

Tharsis Shipping and De Kaap stand for 100% Dutch craftsmanship, a unique combination these days and one that pays off.

Tom Oomkens

WMN 54 5


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