Belzona Repair Composite Repairs Corroded Propeller Shaft on Historic Ship

The Belem made her maiden voyage in 1896, the same year as the first Olympic games. Photo courtesy of Belzona.

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

Considered to be the last great French merchant ship, the Belem is an impressive three-mast vessel reaching 34 meters (112 ft) tall and 58 meters (90 ft) long. As well as possessing an impressive 22 sails with a huge surface area of 1,200 m2 (1,435 yd2), 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. 

On April 27, once the Olympic flame was lit in Athens, the Belem began its 2,000 km (1,242 mi) journey from the port of Piraeus to Marseille. The Olympic flame was watched 24 hours a day to ensure it stayed lit until it reached the French coast twelve days later. 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 ring and the colors of the French flag as more than 150,000 lined the streets of Marseilles. 

The propeller 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. 

Alliatech, a Belzona-authorized distributor with more than 40 years of experience, was chosen to carry out the repair. The application took place while 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. 

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 an excellent defense 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. 

Source: Belzona,