The key to success in the quest for operational excellence

The operations managers of the major cruise and ferry brands face multiple challenges in keeping their fleets afloat. Michele Witthaus finds out what’s top of the agenda for three of them

The key to success in the quest for operational excellence
Genting Cruise Lines is upgrading its onboard technology to keep ships eco-friendly and appealing to guests

This article was first published in Spring/Summer 2018 issue of the International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Genting Cruise Lines oversees three cruise brands – Star Cruises, Dream Cruises and Crystal Cruises – each one with its own diverse operational needs. The geographies covered by the brands’ new itineraries pose particular challenges, says Havard Ramsoy, vice president of marine operations at Genting Cruise Lines.

“The infrastructure of many ports and terminals has yet to catch up as vessels become larger, which means that visiting attractive destinations with thousands of people sometimes creates a logistical challenge,” he explains. “There are times when ships are navigating these areas using old survey data that requires local knowledge from the crew, further testing the skills of pilots and officers onboard.”

Although ferry operators have fixed routes, they must be vigilant. Inclement weather on a single route, for example, can bring major problems, says Michael Guldmann Petersen, senior vice president of route management and operations at European line Scandlines. “At present, our biggest operational risk is the severe weather experienced in the winter months on the Rostock-Gedser route between Germany and Denmark,” he explains. “The port of Gedser is particularly exposed and we occasionally experience very strong currents combined with strong winds and low water levels, which makes it challenging to keep our schedules and operation running 24 hours a day, all year round.”

In busy regions where several ferry operators compete with other types of transportation, the weather is the least of the problems. “A major challenge is how to meet the expectations to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while simultaneously enabling more transport at sea, which is necessary to reach the overall goal for the transport sector,” remarks Per Stefenson, marine standards advisor at Stena Teknik. “Although shipping is mentioned as a tool for lowering GHG emissions in the European and national policy documents, the major research and technological development funding is going to rail and road transportation.”

Stefenson highlights the cost of complying with the new environmental regulations for sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions, and ballast water treatment systems as a key issue. “We’re trying to investigate all possible options to fulfil the regulations in an optimal way, both economically and functionally,” he says. “Lowering GHG emissions is a priority and the best way to do that is to save energy. We have an ongoing programme where we try to identify possible energy-saving options and implement them. We’ve done everything from shifting light bulbs to changing the bow bulb to optimise vessel operations. The aim is to save 2% fuel per year, which we have achieved.”

Scandlines is also fully engaged in reducing emissions. “We’re constantly evaluating the energy consumption profiles in our fleet and looking to find further ways to reduce energy use,” says Petersen. “The most interesting is that we’re collecting mass data to create a database-optimised operations profile.”

The company is still riding the crest of the sustainability wave it started back in 2013, when it introduced a hybrid propulsion system – combining traditional fuel power with electric battery power – on its Puttgarden-Rødby vessels. The two new ships on the Rostock-Gedser route now also run on the system.

“Scandlines is able to make large-scale use of an onboard hybrid system, which stores energy in batteries and enables optimised operation of the ship’s engines, ensuring maximum fuel efficiency,” says Petersen. “At the same time, there’s a redundant power supply in case one of the engines stops unintentionally. Consequently, the ferries operating the Puttgarden-Rødby route are expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 15%. On our Rostock-Gedser route, the vessels’ fuel consumption has also reduced by a third per crossing per car, compared to the former ferries on the route. Meanwhile, the scrubbers on our fleet clean the engine exhaust gasses of pollutants such as sulphur and particulate matter, decreasing these emissions by at least 90%.”

The hybrid ferries were the successful first step of Scandline’s green strategy, but the long-term objective is zero-emission ferries. “The journey towards achieving zero emission on four of our ferries operating the Puttgarden-Rødby crossing is our most important activity,” explains Petersen. “Our current focus is on reducing the energy consumption per crossing as much as possible. With 34,000 annual departures on the Puttgarden-Rødby route alone, we can achieve big energy savings through small adjustments. Thus, we’re preparing our ferries step by step for zero emission within a few years.”

Stena is also seeking ways to reduce the environmental impact of its fleet while boosting safety. “We’re investigating new technologies, including batteries and alternative fuels, for fossil-free operations, and we’re improving safety through autonomous technology,” says Stefenson. “One important component is to try to be proactive by testing new technical and operational solutions all the time and in time before the implementation of new regulations. We’ve developed a sustainability policy where important key performance indicators are measured annually.”

Likewise, Genting’s cruise brands are upgrading onboard systems to meet future requirements and optimise the nautical and engineering operations of their fleets, as well as safety. “By upgrading various technologies concerning documentation and reporting, our onboard operations have become more effective,” says Ramsoy. “This includes the use of optimisation software for engines, trim and even monitoring power consumption in galleys and elsewhere. Our big power consumers, such as HVAC systems, are also more intelligent and advanced nowadays.”

Improving the human face of operations is also in Ramsoy’s sights. “It’s our goal to maintain our high retention rate for our officers and key personnel,” he notes. “We’re finding that senior officers are getting younger and, with that, we need to ensure that we nurture and develop our crews’ knowledge, skills and competence.”

Knowledge is crucial to operating efficiently in the changing maritime environment, says Ramsoy. “We keep ourselves informed about the latest regulatory developments in order to best support our brands’ vessels. Compliance with regulations and procedures is assessed through both internal and external audits.”

Noting that rapidly developing technology has made operations generally safer over the past few years, Ramsoy adds: “To fully embrace new technology and make the best use of it, we also need to adjust our mindset. This adjustment is not only for operators and crew, but also necessary for the regulators and manufacturers of the equipment.”

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
Thursday, July 19, 2018