Seatrade Cruise Global: Top moments from day four

Press conferences and interviews are routine fare for a journalist at Seatrade Cruise Global, but there was a lot to look forward to on the fourth day of the 2018 event, says ICFR's Jon Ingleton

Seatrade Cruise Global: Top moments from day four

Wednesday 7th March
My second intellectual encounter of the week took me to Foreship. I was told the team was filled with clever people and so it proved to be. Jan-Erik Räsänen, head of new technologies, can roll off “a very long list of ship efficiency innovations” and has an intimate knowledge of contemporary technologies that can improve performance. Perhaps more impressive is his understanding of how new systems operate alongside others and “which combinations collectively deliver optimum results.” Fuel cells and battery power are topical, but complicated, themes that were easily simplified by Räsänen – small wonder that cruise lines are increasingly turning to Foreship for advice. The company’s refit business is on the up too, according to vice president of business development Mattias Jörgensen. He said: “We’ve got 500 dock days scheduled for the first six months of 2018.”

YSA Design has operated with relatively little noise in recent years, but the company’s output continues to sing and those in the know are well aware of the considerable capabilities that exist within the firm. A coffee break with CEO Anne Mari Gullikstad and senior architect Jan Egil Krefting reveals their continued desire to prioritise design excellence over showy gestures.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. had a lot to share with an eager press audience at Seatrade Cruise Global (SCG), but its striking new terminal at PortMiami was the big reveal on this occasion.

“We are honoured to be partnering with PortMiami and Miami-Dade County to construct an iconic terminal that will contribute to Miami’s world famous skyline and strengthen its position as the Cruise Capital of the World,” said Frank del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. He added that assuming final approvals are granted by Miami-Dade, construction of the Bermello Ajamil & Partners terminal will commence in May and be completed by autumn 2019.

The break between press conferences provided sufficient time to head to the ‘Blue Carpet’ hospitality of Puertos del Estado. Spanish ports were justifiably celebrating another year of growth, up 4% to over nine million passengers in 2017. Spain is acutely aware of the positive contribution that the cruise industry makes to the national economy (€1.25 billion) and continues to develop its world-class infrastructure to support further growth – investment scheduled for the period 2017-2021 is expected to total €285 million. Tax incentives remain in place through 2018 for cruise ships calling into Spanish ports and loyalty is rewarded with further reductions.

River cruise operator Tauck used its press conference to mark the start of its 25th anniversary in small ship cruising this year, detailing five new itineraries for 2019. The company also reiterated its commitment to its partnership with Ponant at its press conference and set a target of 40% growth in passengers in 2019. The essence of a Tauck cruise mirrors Ponant’s own market niche. “Expertly curated treasures that reveal the true destination story of each place we visit,” explained Katharine Bonner, senior vice president at Tauck.

For a second year, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection used Seatrade for its latest reveal, sharing insights into the interiors and destinations for its new ship. Managing director Doug Prothero spoke of a ‘highly personalised’ experience and it is the totality of this personalisation across the company’s product offering that will appeal to discerning passengers. This approach was exemplified in Prothero’s comments about the first ship’s itinerary in the southern Caribbean. “Is it about how many islands you can get to, or about how deep you can go into those destinations?” he asked conference attendees.

Navigating frozen waters is a tricky business made safer by the Polar Code which came into force last January. For any cruise line charting a course in polar waters, recruiting a team of experts to guide you through the safety and legislative issues is key. Niels Fraende, vice president of Cruise and Lifecraft at Viking Life-Saving Equipment might be one of the first names on the team sheet (likewise Markis Aarnio at Foreship). Fraende took time out from discussions with cruise executives to give ICFR an overview of its latest innovation, saying: “Our new Viking LifeCraft System is an enclosed controlled environment chute-based system designed to operate reliably under harsh conditions.”

Comprising the existing lifecraft with a storing and launching unit, the new system can be placed on a deck or built into the ship’s side. The storing unit is a neat approach to protecting the safety equipment held within. Approvals are expected around September 2018, according to Fraende. Particularly impressive in this new system is the rigorous extreme weather testing that it has successfully endured – passenger safety is paramount and this release will be a reassuring feature on new ships.

In 1926, the Hoover brand name was so popular in the UK that it became the verb for vacuuming. At SCG 2018, I heard someone similarly refer to decking as Bolidt. While Hoover lost market dominance through failing to keep pace with innovation, no such fate appears likely for Bolidt. The company’s illuminous decking caused a stir at SCG 2017 and inset lighting achieved a similar effect last week. What next, an intelligent floor that recognises my weight and gait? Now that would be something. From spring 2019, visitors to the new Bolidt Experience & Innovation Centre might just find this and other advances that may one day lead to the company’s name being listed in the dictionary.

A trip to Fort Lauderdale is incomplete without a visit to Waxy O’Connor’s Bar. ‘One hundred thousand welcomes’ from Northern Ireland-based refit firm MJM Group is enough to whet the whistle of any weary wanderer – but the Guinness certainly helped too! After the announcement of its project to refit Azamara Club Cruises' Azamara Pursuit, MJM chairman and founder Brian McConville has been busy and so it was at SCG, but I toasted his good health and enjoyed the good company of others at this iconic venue. Then off to Pelican Landing for the Bolidt cocktail party to enjoy the music, dancing and a great deal of cheer in the company of old friends and new.

ABB is an essential port of call on the exhibition floor, few companies can match the company’s pace of transformational innovation. Jukka Varis, vice president of technology, was on hand to share the latest news as the company celebrated its 100th Azipod installation on a cruise ship, after winning an order from Ponant. While some are still sceptical about podded propulsion, owners who have made a commitment to the technology are still buying them, so I asked Varis why.

“From the beginning Azipod has exceeded expectations,” he said. “In the right operating environment, Azipod has proven and unrivalled manoeuvrability, safety, maintainability, efficiency and reliability.”

In addition, ABB won’t sell a pod solution if it doesn’t fit the operational profile of a newbuild – but this is rarely the case for a cruise ship. ABB is also making significant progress with fuel cell technology, a market that is now ‘really moving’, according to Jostein Bogen. Zero emission energy is on every cruise line’s wish list and ABB is in a prime position to partner with companies who are ready to embark on a path towards more sustainable operations.

“Of course one of the biggest drivers is the increasing restrictions on emissions,” said Bogen. “Market drivers and a technology shift is creating a big demand for fuel cells now.”

Read ICFR's highlights from the first and second days of SCG, as well as the best bits from the third and fifth days. 

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
Thursday, March 15, 2018