Heller 1/200 Smit Rotterdam
KIT #: 80620
PRICE: Around 35 Euros
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Frank Spahr
NOTES: Includes anchor chain


The two oceangoing tugs Smit Rotterdam and Smit London were built in the Netherlands in the mid 1970s. About 75 metres long and with engines rathed at 22,000 hp, they could be deployed worldwide to assist vessels and work for the offshore industry. They were equipped with comprehensive towing gear, workshops and firefighting equipment. Both ships had a long career and were broken up in India in 2012/13.


This kit has been around for several decades. The Scalemates database lists it with an original issue year of 1980. As such, it has some features that will be regarded as clunky by today´s standards, such as the plastic railings, or the launch rails for the life raft containers. The bow thruster is just marked as a shallow circular depression in the hull, whilst the two Kort nozzles are nicely rendered. The bridge is empty, but can be easily provided with a scratchbuilt interior. Luckily, there are no molded on anchor chains, but a length of real chain has been provided.

On the whole, you get a very nicely detailed kit that gives you room for improvement, and at a very reasonable price.

One caveat, though: I realized when it was too late (when else?) that, despite thorough degreasing with lighter fluid and using a proven solvent-based primer, the paint would not really stick to the plastic. There might be some strong mold release agent involved that requires the use of "hotter" degreasing agents like silicone remover, but I haven´t tried them and anyway you would have to run some tests first!



I do like older kits, and figuring out what to do with them. In this case, I had originally bought the kit to go with the Revell oil rig kit, and had some sort of diorama setting in mind. Realizing the space such an item would need, I decided to build and display both kits separately. Sometimes, domestic peace outranks modeling fun.

So I assembled the rather solid hull one fine Saturday morning, using the strongest liquid cement I have. Some of the raised detail at the bow was lost during sanding, so I replaced it with a piece of brass tubing and thin brass wire. The old molds obviously necessitate some more cleanup than with a new kit, but nothing extraordinary. I was able to proceed with basic assembly rather fast, as the fit of the kit was quite good and the parts large and easily worked with. A block of wood was thoroughly glued onto the bottom of the hull to receive a pair of screws to fix the model in the building vise. Deck and superstructure assemblies were prepared not per instructions, but so as to render subassemblies that could easily be painted and assembled later. For that reason, the complete assembly of the two funnels with the connecting flying bridge was assembled prior to any priming or painting.

The large window areas of the bridge made me provide a rather basic and generic bridge interior. I also ordered some generic and basic architectural styrene figures in 1:200 scale to provide some crew. PE ladders and railings plus an assortment of handwheels were ordered from German supplier Saemann Ätztechnik. The inclined ladders were left as they were, as I regarded the effort of replacing them as too high and its success as too unsure.

To make the base, a piece of insulation foam board of 30 mm gauge (around 1.2 inches) was cut to size, and a cutout for the hull was made, first with an electric saw and then with a knife. The hull reasonably fitted in, the seascape was sculpted also using a saw and a knife. This is dirty work, especially when it comes to the sanding stage. A careful spray of brush cleaner (which dissolves the foam board like a special effect at the end of a classic Dracula movie) rendered a slightly rough surface in the troubled sea areas. As I wanted a really heavy bow wave, its basic shape was carved from foam baord scrap and glued to the base using a special glue for styrofoam. The hull was then covered in clingfilm, placed in the cutout, and the remaining gaps filled with acrylic filler from the hardware store.

Meanwhile I continued on the vessel, identifying subassemblies and seeing what to accurize. The two diesel exhausts were carefully drilled open and painted an appropriate dark metalizer. The DF loop antenna was replaced with circles from PE handwheel stock. The liferaft racks in front of the bridge were remade from PE railing stock and styrene stock. The liferaft containers were cleaned up and the raised detail accentuated by carefully sawing around them.

The model was thoroughly degreased and primed using tried and true spray can primer. Nonetheless, paint adherence left a lot to be desired which necessitated repairs. The model was painted acrylic shades I deemed fitting. All were toned down to avoid the toylike look, so a dark grey was used instead of black, a darker brick red was used for the lower hull, and a rather dull green for the decks. Only the white areas were really painted white, using Vallejo´s white PU primer.

On the base, any visible excess of the acrylic filler was trimmed, and the base then painted with white wall paint, of the heavier viscosity, in a stippling motion to achieve the desired surface structure. That cured, I used a shade of green, one of turquoise and one of a deeper blue successively in my airbrush to add colour to the sea. That done, the base was left to dry for a week to get rid of residual moisture.

Meanwhile, the model was assembled step by step. The mast was replaced by a convenient piece of tapered machined brass with brass yardarms and styrene fittings. The cranes received PE hooks and lengths of Caenis monofilament, plus PE ladders. The molded-on "canvas" covers of the boats were covered with a layer of cigarette paper soaked in Klear, and cut to size. That added some credible wrinkling and creasing. The molded-on boat cradles received drilled lightening holes. PE handwheels of appropriate size were used on the winches. More handwheels were used on the searchlights.

I only rather late in the project came upon a set of good photos of the real ship, which showed me some things I had overlooked. A part of the tug deck was planked with wood, so I used a piece of Evergreen "V-groove" sheet cut to size and painted accordingly to replicate that.


Assembling the various decks needed some amount of glue and pressure, and due to the poor adherence of the paint to the plastic, some corrections. Normally the spray can primer works better. Successively with assembly, the paintjob was corrected and the decals applied. They worked reasonably well, though they were on the fragile side, so care was needed. Main assembly and decaling done, the model received a flat coat of Windsor & Newton´s Galleria flat medium, thinned with window cleaner and some Vallejo Airbrush Flow Improver.

That cured, the model was weathered using artist´s oils, more on the hull and on the deck, virtually not on the superstructure. I always try to imagine where most wear and tear would occur and where the crew could most easily do repaints and maintenance outside a docking period. I had to repaint a lot of the deck fittings at this point, following the reference images. I did not repaint the mast and cranes in the dull buff I found on some images, as I preferred the bright yellow. There you have it, there are rather narrow limits to my quest for accuracy.


The base now dried, it received a number of coats of solvent based clear gloss from a spray can. That cures reasonably fast, but only on the surface, mind not to touch it too much or leave the model on it.

When the main components had been asembled, the model received its share of PE railings of various heights and number of bars. In fact the main railings should have had four instead of three bars, but I decided against ordering yet more railings and use what I had prepared. In this scale, the railings are rather sturdy and need a different working approach than the gossamery stuff in smaller scales. They also stand much more handling, obviously. They were glued with generic CA glue, which was also used to fill any remaining gaps. All railings had been degreased and primed a very light grey on the fret, so only touchups were needed after gluing them to the model. That, and hand painting every topmost bar in black as per reference images.

The anchors had been "rusted" using artist´s oils and were now attached to the model. The supplied anchor chain was treated with a strong blackening agent and then "rusted" a bit, too, before it was attached to the chainways.

The bridge roof was left off until this stage, same as the funnel assembly. Everything was now flatcoated again to achieve a uniform look. Only now were the numerous windows filled with specially transparent PVA glue, using a toothpick or a long-haired brush, depending on the size of the windows. That cured transparent within a few hours. Only now could the bridge roof and the funnel assembly be added to the model.

The final phase involved rigging the model. I made some turnbuckles from .2 mm brass wire and glued them into holes I had drilled where needed. The model was rigged with Caenis monofilament for the antenna wires and UNI 8/0 thread for the stays. Isolators were hinted at with drops of white glue.

Now came the moment of mating the model to the base. That first of all necessitated some corrections to the base, where the acrylic must have warped a bit in the interval, so the model sat as snug in its cutout as achievable. Any remaining small gaps could then in the last step be closed with acrylic gel.

In this project, I wanted a strong, heavy and massive bow wave and a massively churned wake. So I looked into the stunning builds Canadian modeler Chris Flodberg has presented at modelwarships.com over the past few years. He very helpfully described his technique of reproducing waves, wakes and spray, and I decided to give it a go.

Cotton wool is an obvious choice for simulating something frothy, fluffy and churning as water displaced and thrown around by something as massive as a ship pounding its way through it. Nonetheless, wool alone does not look quite right. So I added sections of cosmetics wool of the right size and fibre flow to the base using clear gloss acryliv gel. The same gel was very carefully stippled onto the waves to blend them in and arrive at an irregularly glossy or sparkly surface structure. I found out that carefully ading Klear to the bow wave improved the effect a lot, and adding more gel to the stern wake with a brush improved the effect there.

It was a matter of trying, pausing, revisiting, redoing, correcting, until I finally was satisfied with the result. I feel I learned something during this build and am hopeful I can improve my further seascapes with this technique, especially the bow wave and the wake.


This is an old but very neat kit that build into a quite impressive mode. It needs not too much redoing, and it was fun building it!

Frank Spahr

January 2016

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