How SunStone Ships embarked on a mission to succeed

Succeeding in the expedition market is much easier if you’ve done the groundwork, says president and CEO Niels-Erik Lund

How SunStone Ships embarked on a mission to succeed
SunStone Ships’ fleet of expedition vessels operate worldwide in both cold and warm waters

Miami-based SunStone Ships is continuing to drive the classic expedition ship market with the delivery of its first Infinity-class vessel, Greg Mortimer, which will arrive in September this year. Proudly named after Aurora Expeditions’ adventurous co-founder, this 104-metre ship is capable of negotiating the strongest winds and waves and can accommodate 100 landing passengers plus kayakers and divers.

This delivery is a mark of the firm’s continued success. Since its inception in 2012, not only has it successfully completed twelve expedition ship purchases, but it has also chartered more than 30 cruise vessels and ordered seven new builds.

According to Niels-Erik Lund, SunStone’s president and CEO, these accomplishments are a direct result of hard work and firsthand experience of the expedition cruise niche market and its associated trends. “Having worked in the industry for many years, I had the early foresight to realise that many of the existing expedition vessels operating across the globe were reaching the end of their life,” he explains. “I came to the conclusion that, sooner rather than later, there would be a need for greater capacity. That’s why, armed with years of groundwork, we pioneered the building of expedition vessels in China, collaborating with China Merchant Heavy Industry to build a series of vessels, now known as the Infinity-class vessels.”

The Infinity-class vessels are 104.4 metres in length, 18.4 metres wide, have a draft of 5.1 metres, service speed of 15.5 knots and passenger capacity varying between 120-200. All will be Polar Class 6 ice-rated, Ice Class 1A and will meet secure real-time transport protocol requirements. They benefit from zero speed stabilisers, dynamic positioning and feature a unique X-Bow design which offers a better and more comfortable ride in harsh waters. “Through partnerships with industry leaders including Ulstein Design and Solutions, Makkinen and Tillberg Design, I am more than confident that the Infinity Class vessels will meet European quality expectations,” Lund says. “What’s more, all equipment onboard is sourced from European manufacturers who have a minimum of fifteen years’ experience delivering to the cruise industry.”

While Lund acknowledges concerns about the growth of capacity in the market over the next few years, especially with the number of new vessels slated in 2022 and 2023, he reasons that the changing demographics of passengers, combined with an increase in the number of more active guests attracted to expedition-style cruising in remote areas throughout the world, means that there will be a need for new tonnage. “This positions the Infinity-class vessels firmly in the market,” he says. “Their design flexibility, efficiency and competitive charter price gives them a distinct advantage.”

Having sold two of its vessels, Victory I And Victory II, to American Queen Steamboat Company earlier this year, the remaining eight SunStone expedition vessels are chartered out to existing cruise and travel companies such as Quark Expeditions, Poseidon Expeditions, Iceland Pro Cruises, Adventure Canada and Albatros Travel. “These are used on long-term charters operating worldwide in both cold and warm waters,” Lund explains. “For the 2019-2020 Antarctic season, SunStone is operating six vessels in Antarctica. Meanwhile, for 2020-2021, seven vessels will be in operation. This makes SunStone the largest operator in the region – a title I am incredibly proud of.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
31 January 2020

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