Delivering efficiency in cabin construction

Standardisation and prefabrication are just two ways to reduce costs when creating onboard spaces
Delivering efficiency in cabin construction
Marine Interiors built custom cabins onboard Ponant’s Le Lapérouse

By Gabriele Cafaro |

Cruise ships have, for a long time, been a source of envy among travellers, but these ‘floating cities’ and ‘resorts at sea’ can only be realised by the expert craftsmanship of those who are involved in designing, building and outfitting every nook and cranny.

At Marine Interiors, a subsidiary of the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, we take this responsibility very seriously. Our range of services in both newbuilding and refurbishment has seen the company reach an overall turnover of €250 million (US$280 million) in 2019 and has placed us as the global leader in the cruise accommodation industry with a yearly delivery of approximately 12,000 cabins, 5,000 wet units, 40,000 square metres of public areas, and increasing volumes of galleys and glazing.

When it comes to the construction of these facilities, there are two main approaches: prefabrication and specialised onboard services. Prefabrication is mainly used in newbuild projects, as our in-house team can produce the key structural elements of the cabin – for example the bulkheads and ceiling – via an automated production line and proprietary certification. We then use our dedicated yard space to put together all the relevant furniture and accessories – such as headboards and lamps – and lift the completed cabin onto the ship where it is then fitted directly to the steel superstructure. For specialised cabins and refurbishment projects, all erection and installation activities are performed onboard.

While both of these methods have their merits, prefabrication has become a more popular option in the industry because it is more cost effective and easier to monitor quality control, particularly when installation time is limited. However, to reduce interferences and ensure this process is completed successfully, the shipowner, yard and contracted design department must work in complete cooperation.

There are several ways that shipowners can reduce costs when it comes to construction and furnishing. For example, different room types will require different budgets; a 100-square-metre suite has very greater requirements to a standard inside cabin. There are also great cost-saving opportunities to be found in standardisation – with fewer types of chairs, curtains and wet units needed onboard, there is less time and money spent on the design, production and installation of each different style of item.

Efficiency is a cross-industry buzzword, but for good reason. In the manufacturing and construction of cabins, efficiency can improve operations and reduce costs for all parties involved.

In the past two years, Marine Interiors has reached its historical peak efficiency in terms of volume of walls panels produced per year. While standardisation and prefabrication have already helped us to improve operations significantly, there are other initiatives that could drive this further, for example in logistics. More intelligent tracking systems could further reduce costs and improve quality. We have already invested heavily in this type of solution, but optimised IT systems and automation would help us achieve true efficiency.

Five years ago, we started exploring new ways to store the components we manufacture to make our warehouse operations more efficient. In the coming years, we hope to implement a tracking and automation solution that will further modernise our warehouse facilities.

We have learnt a few things in our years of striving to optimise our own operations and the execution of interiors projects for ship operators worldwide. When considering how to approach cabin and wet room planning, design and construction, the most important thing is to involve your contractors from the beginning. For example, you need to know the builder’s point of view before the mock-up stage in order to balance your architectural and marketing needs with construction efficiency, and they need to understand your vision in order to successfully create the space.

Gabriele Cafaro is the CEO of Marine Interiors

This article was first published in the 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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