VESSEL REVIEW | The Pioneer One – Berlin-based media start-up introduces world’s first purpose-built floating newsroom

Photo: Block Transformatoren-Elektronik

Media Pioneer Publishing, a start-up media company founded in 2018 by German author and entrepreneur Gabor Steingart, recently introduced a new type of vessel on the Spree River in Berlin. Named The Pioneer One, the vessel is the first in the world to be purpose-built as a workplace for journalists.

The Pioneer One was the result of Mr Steingart’s goal to “give quality journalism a home and a stage” by providing his new company’s editorial staff a floating workplace that he claims is as innovative as the company itself and its brand of journalism.

Development of what Mr Steingart and his team have dubbed as the medienschiff (“media ship”) began in August 2018 shortly after Media Pioneer officially commenced its operations in Berlin. The vessel was built by Niederkassel-based Lux-Werft und Schifffahrt, a family-owned enterprise which has been an active player in Germany’s inland ferry and day cruiser newbuilding industry since the post-World War II years.

The Pioneer One has a length of 40 metres, a beam of seven metres, a newsroom for up to 30 editorial staff, and 200 square metres of deck space that could house a fully-equipped television broadcasting facility and a podcast recording studio as well as producers and video and sound technicians. A maximum of 100 guests could also be accommodated on each trip.

Photo: Walter Knoll

The vessel’s interior features cameras with 360-degree fields of view and furniture supplied by famed local manufacturer Walter Knoll. These include swivel bucket seats, swivel leather armchairs, and conference tables. The furniture can be easily assembled, dismantled, and rearranged, thus allowing flexibility whenever private events are being held on board. Onboard toilets have been installed by Switzerland-based Laufen.

The vessel also has an open upper deck that could serve as an events venue during days of clear summer weather.

The Pioneer One’s main propulsion consists of an electric motor that drives a Schottel SPJ22 pump jet with 90 kW of input and that is steerable up to 360 degrees. The pump jet is designed for use in shallow waters, being installed flush with the vessel’s outer shell to reduce hull resistance as well as the risk of buildup of debris. Because of the way in which it is installed in the hull, the pump jet enjoys a significantly low risk of sustaining damage in the event of a grounding.

Along with a bow thruster, the Schottel propulsion system guarantees improved manoeuvrability while the entire propulsion configuration itself generates low emissions and noise so that there is no impact on the surrounding environment and the journalists and other personnel on board can focus on their work even while the vessel is in transit.

To further reduce emissions and noise, the vessel’s electrical systems do not draw power from the main propulsion or from any diesel generators, but from a lithium-ion battery pack connected to onboard solar panels and miniature wind turbines. This unique power generation arrangement was installed by German renewable energy specialist RWE Supply and Trading, while an isolating transformer supplied by Block Transformatoren-Elektronik functions as a link between the batteries and the onboard electronics.

The Pioneer One was launched in April of this year and was handed over to its new owners the following month. It has already begun sailing on daily trips along the Spree and other inland waterways within Berlin. Although the vessel is intended to operate as a newsroom during the daytime, Media Pioneer has assured that its readers and other guests are welcome to come aboard whenever it docks in between sailings. It is also available for private charter during evening hours, providing a unique mobile venue for exclusive events and business seminars with the illuminated German capital city serving as a complementary backdrop.

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The Pioneer One
Type of vessel:Media ship
Owner:Media Pioneer Publishing, Germany
Operator:Media Pioneer Publishing, Germany
Builder:Lux-Werft und Schifffahrt, Germany
Length overall:40 metres
Beam:7 metres
Main engine:Electric motor
Propulsion:Schotell SPJ22 90kW, 360-degree steerable pump jet
Batteries:RWE Supply and Trading lithium-ion battery pack
Other equipment installed:Ceiling-mounted 360-degree cameras
Seating:Walter Knoll seats in events venue
Interior fitout/furnishings:Newsroom with space for 30 people, sound studio, television broadcasting facility, events venue for up to 100 guests

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