While the Covid-19 pandemic has presented challenges that require an immediate solution, many in the industry, including refurbishment partners, are taking this opportunity to consider longer-term transformation.
One of the key challenges that outfitters are facing is yard and material accessibility, according to Erik Schobesberger, vice president of modernisation sales and newbuilding support at marine construction company Almaco. “As technical maintenance schedules must be kept in line with class requirements and some yards might go out of business, finding enough capacity at experienced yards might pose a problem,” he explains. “Depending on how the pandemic develops, some geographical areas might be more accessible than others, leading to further crowding at those locations.”
Collaboration will be required. “Deeper cooperation with coordinated efforts between the shipowners, repair yards and contractors will be needed so that planning for refits will be further enhanced,” says Schobesberger. “The main aim is to ensure that passengers feel safe about cruising again, and collaboration at a global scale to deliver this is essential.”
James Crawford, marine business development manager at interior outfitting firm Mivan, echoes these sentiments. “A key challenge will be boosting consumer confidence in the industry,” he says. “But coronavirus innovations such as sanitation and contamination prevention are at the forefront of significant developments for the refurbishment market. There are also inconsistent quarantine rules across national governments which could potentially limit the number of suppliers available to work on a project, but collaboration and a unified effort to use Covid-19 identification systems on all ships and yards could also help to solve this.”
Some creativity may be required to address the challenges presented by these unprecedented times. For example, architect at marine outfitter Gerolamo Scorza, Alfredo De Flora says that “the refurbishment season must be rethought in terms of project delivery conditions, appointed manpower and maintaining high-quality standards to meet customers’ expectations.” Karen Argue, business development manager at marine refurbishment company The Deluxe Group, says that the industry will need to become more flexible to adapt to sudden changes, and Mantas Dubavičius, commercial director at shipbuilding firm Aros Marine, also adds that “businesses must diversify to include more business areas and look for more effective ways to operate”.
Many refurbishment companies agree that better planning is crucial to reduce the cost and time associated with refitting and outfitting projects. “Efficiency comes from good planning and logistic control,” says Tina Kjeldgaard, project manager at ship interior consulting firm Danish Decoration. “This can always be improved, especially through close coordination between all parties involved.”
And Sebastian Lagerlöf, managing director at NIT, adds that: “An open dialogue between the shipowner, architects and the contractor ensures a cost-efficient delivery of the intended scope. It’s never worth reducing quality to save money.”
Mivan’s Crawford says that “a collaborative working group with representatives from the cruise line, shipyard, main contractors, designers and key suppliers can help to provide information on upcoming work areas and programme timescales”. As such, all members can reduce the overall cost of the finished project, eliminate inconsistencies and reduce rework, all while enhancing quality. And organisations including Gerolamo Scorza and Aros Marine highlight that the increased usage of prefabricated products can also save time and money that is associated with longer fitting times and yard capacity.
Argue also suggests that cruise lines and contractors can continue to look for new efficiencies during this period of rest. “This downtime can be used to look at ways of becoming even more efficient on site, investigate cost-effective solutions with suppliers, and explore the use of alternative and more sustainable materials and technology to completely reimagine interior spaces and create more memorable, enriching experiences for guests,” she says.
Many anticipate that the time between significant refits will be extended over the coming months. This may increase the reliance on firms that provide services to keep passenger ships looking their best between refits.
Aros Marine, for example, is offering Mobile Teams service worldwide and mini vans with repair teams throughout Europe. “Our teams are ready at short notice and are oriented to provide customers with a range of small- and medium-scale refurbishment works,” says Dubavičius.
CITA Design offers services to cruise lines to refresh their spaces, for example with new movable furniture pieces. And Trimline’s ongoing maintenance service for clients helps to extend the lifecycle of the ships and reduce costs at refit time. “For example, an area can look ‘new’ simply by adding a new carpet, decoration or a few key features such as lighting or furniture,” says Simon Dawkins, commercial manager at Trimline. “This enables the operator to maintain all of the ship’s existing features, while keeping costs to a minimum.”
Preventative maintenance helps to keep interiors fresh, according to Almaco’s Schobesberger. “We have invested a lot into our after-sales services in recent years, so that we can offer comprehensive and preventive maintenance programmes. By investing in planned maintenance, cruise lines and operators can increase the time between major refits while keeping the equipment and interior spaces working as intended and looking fresh.”
And while each of these measures could be integral to the successful upkeep of vessels and their interiors, Lagerlöf from NIT believes that it all comes down to initial quality. “Good workmanship with high quality materials will last a long time and is easy to maintain,” he explains.
Solving refurbishment’s waste problem
In recent years the cruise industry has redoubled its efforts to clean up the oceans and minimise its environmental impact, through cleaner fuels, water recycling systems and reducing the use of single-use plastics. But while refurbishment is an integral part in ensuring the longevity and relevance of onboard interiors, members of the industry understand that there is work to do to follow in the wider industry’s sustainable footsteps.
“Refurbishment waste is one of the most important problems in the marine sector,” says Merve Özçelik, sales and marketing manager at CITA Design. “Leather and fabric materials produce the greatest volumes of waste in our projects. As such, we try to use recyclable products wherever possible to do out bit for a cleaner world.”
In addition to recycling, Danish Decoration believes waste management is an equally prominent solution to improve recyclability and reduce the amount of materials that end up in landfill sites. “Correct waste handling has become a big part of refurbishment,” says Kjeldgaard. “As prices for waste disposal have increased significantly in recent years, we created a logistics team to ensure all of the waste is correctly sorted and disposed of in the correct containers.”
This is reiterated by Trimline. “We have found that there is significant waste created in using additional materials to cover issues that could not be fully identified during a survey,” explains Dawkins. “Screed is a good example of this, as you never quite know how much you will need until you start stripping the space. In certain locations, such as Cadiz, Spain, there is a consistent supply chain for the material, which means you can easily access more as you need it, rather than requesting too much and throwing it away. In areas where materials are more difficult to get hold of, shipyards could collect these surplus materials to re-use on future projects. It would cut down waste tremendously.”
NIT has been looking at the wider issue in its GreeNIT programme and it has found that effective change will only come from looking at the whole chain – from the manufacturing of materials to it ending up as scrap. “Some material requires a lot of energy during production and others can contain hazardous substances,” says Lagerlöf. “It is a complex puzzle but can be well managed if you are ready to put in the time and effort. Through our GreeNIT programme, we teach designers and purchasers to make smart decisions in choosing sustainable materials and solutions.”
While the present may still feel uncertain for those involved in cruise operations, the future sees refurbishment companies who are poised to jump back in at where they left off, armed with some new ideas and solutions.
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
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