Re: Azipods in reverse?
"I thought they were fixed pitch and fixed rotation. If they wanted to back the ship up, they simply spin the Azipod 180 degrees."
That's the way it was explained to us landlubber tourists by the 3rd Officer of MS Eurodam on a recent cruise. He also mentioned that they could point the pods perpendicular to the keel to slow the ship rapidly before rotating to apply reverse thrust. There were pictures from dry dock posted on the back wall of the bridge wing to illustrate what the azipods looked like. That particular ship (and presumably similar vessels) had three sets of thruster controls - one on each wing for use during docking maneuvers and one in the center at the main "helm" position. The officer explained that, although Eurodam didn't have one, the large traditional ships wheel on other HA ships did actually work but was largely ceremonial. Steering was normally accomplished by a simple joystick and the thruster controls. I would think nearly all recently constructed vessels above (and possibly below) certain tonnage thresholds are designed with azimuth thrusters - providing flexibility and agility to what would otherwise seem rather ponderous indeed.