Demographic trends, new source markets and environmental regulations are among the priorities driving recent and upcoming refit projects. ICFR finds out more
For most cruise lines, guest satisfaction is the number one driver for refit projects and to that end, it is crucial that vessels are kept as up to date as possible. According to the CLIA 2014 State of the Industry Report, top cruise trends include an increasing number of multigenerational and social-group cruisers, greater demand for more high-energy onboard facilities, and a rebound in luxury cruising – a result of a healthier world-wide economy and the growth in new source markets such as Asia and Australasia. Behind the scenes, a technology revolution is underway in direct response to strict global regulations targeting fuel emissions and ballast water management.
Picking up on the demographic shift, Christian Compton, director of corporate refit at Carnival Corporation & plc, finds that although the group’s brands are approaching his division with different ideas and concepts of what they’re looking for, there are consistently recurring themes. “I’m seeing requests for more family-oriented cabin types and options, such as those designed so that children and grandparents are connected to the parents. We’re seeing many requests for single cabins – that doesn’t necessarily mean somebody is sailing by themselves, but may be a group of friends travelling together yet each preferring their own rooms, as they would in a hotel.”
Two of the corporation’s brands, Cunard Cruise Line and Princess Cruises, are responding to the trends. Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth underwent her first refit in June 2014 in the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg. The multimillion-pound refurbishment included nine additional single-occupancy cabins, each measuring between 159sqft and 162sqft and featuring expansive windows in the outside rooms. In addition, new mattresses were provided for each bed in every cabin as were state-of-the-art televisions. Routine maintenance included new carpets throughout, more modern touches for the Royal Arcade retail area and purpose-made tensile canopies installed on open decks to provide more shaded areas in response to guest feedback.
Accompanying its spend on carpets, drapes and fabrics to transform the public spaces of Diamond Princess at Singapore’s Sembawang Shipyard, Princess Cruises’ key goal was to ready the vessel for homeporting from Tokyo, Japan in April 2014. “We have completely remodelled our custom boutiques,” says Jonathan Walker, Princess Cruises’ VP of product development. “The retail product offering is geared towards this source market’s demands, featuring fine jewellery, watches, duty free and high-end designer brands.”
Major changes include new concepts such as Izumi Japanese Bath – the largest open-air bath at sea, the Kai Sushi speciality restaurant, and significant upgrades to the Horizon Court buffet area, while cultural considerations also include more minor changes to the facilities. “We’ve added hand-held shower heads to every stateroom, a unique and important preference for the Japanese source market,” Walker explains. “There are now bidets in suites, mini suites and public toilets, again to accommodate cultural preferences.”
However, changes appealing to the Asian market are intentionally limited. “The Princess Cruises premise is to deliver the core ‘Western’ product, yet relating it to the source market,” Walker says. “We want passengers to experience the Princess brand while being comfortable with the product and environment they are vacationing in. Izumi is definitely a first. It is not an extension to the Lotus Spa, but a completely separate venue dedicated to the bathing ritual. An investment of more than US$10 million demonstrates the dedication we have to the market. This facility does not exist like this, on any ship, anywhere in the world.”
On deployment to the Asia-Pacific region, Royal Caribbean International’s Voyager of the Seas underwent a May 2014 bow-to-stern refit. In readiness for its Southern Hemisphere home during the 2014-2015 summer season, tendering capabilities were a specific requirement. “On Voyager, we’re adding the ability to do tender operations,” says Kevin Douglas, VP of technical projects at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “The original Voyager-class fleet was designed primarily for the Caribbean, where the infrastructure in all of the ports is well established, so the ships themselves didn’t need a large number of tender boats. But because Voyager is a bit of a pathfinder in the Far East and around Australasia, we need to tender, so we’re converting a number of lifeboat stations to carry tender boats.”
Meeting the multigenerational demographic need was also a driver. “Voyager has new accommodation around the spa – some with outdoor balconies and others with floor-to-ceiling, panoramic glass walls,” Douglas says. “These include family suites – instead of two staterooms adjacent to each other with a connecting door for families, we were particularly interested in providing one larger family suite with one and two bedrooms in each of those family rooms.”
As with the successful Navigator of the Seas refit in spring 2014, more Freedom-class features have been added to Voyager, including surf simulator FlowRider, virtual balconies and dining venues of modern Mexican restaurant Sabor and Izumi Asian.
Beyond guest-facing upgrades, stringent regulations for fuel emissions and ballast water management are driving refit priorities for all passenger vessels. The IMO Revised MARPOL Annex VI regulations enforced sulphur reductions from exhaust gases to 3.5% from January 2012 and progressively in phases to 0.5% by January 2020 – in emission control areas (ECA) ships must meet a target of 0.1% of sulphur oxides and particulate matter by 1 January 2015.
Norwegian Cruise Line is ensuring its compliance by contracting environmental technology company Green Tech Marine to fit 28 scrubbers on six of its ships – Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Sun. Installations got underway in spring 2014, with completion due in 2016.
In May 2014, Carnival Corporation revealed plans to expand adoption of its own scrubber technology across more than 70% of its brands’ vessels at a cost of around US$400 million or more. In a press briefing at the time, the corporation’s president and CEO Arnold Donald outlined the reasons behind the initiative: “Increasing our number of installations will drive significant benefits to the company and the environment. Investing in these installations enables Carnival Corporation to meet regulations on sulphur limits, while mitigating escalating fuel costs and helping us meet our environmental and sustainability goals.
“It’s a great benefit to us because of the tremendous increase in fuel costs, but it doesn’t eliminate it. Putting a scrubber on every engine on a ship is not going to happen, so we’ll still have some higher fuel costs so that we comply with the ECA regulations. Hopefully through reduced consumption we’ll be able to mitigate that somewhat.”
Ferries too are seeking ways of reducing fuel costs, whether as a result of rising oil prices or the need to use more expensive fuel to meet IMO environmental regulations. Martin i Soler, one of Spanish operator Baleària’s largest ferries, is to benefit from ABB Marine and Cranes’ energy management system. “Installed to monitor, improve and follow up both energy production and consumption onboard the vessel, the solution enables operating crew to benchmark their own performance and see how their actions reflect in the total energy consumption,” says Jukka Ignatius, advisory systems sales manager, ABB Marine and Cranes. “The advisory package includes an optimisation tool for dynamic trimming which will directly save energy used for propulsion. Office personnel also gain access to hull condition monitoring, which enables them to schedule hull cleanings correctly and to evaluate performance improvement.” Both firms anticipate a 2% saving in at-sea propulsion power.
In a move to meet environmental standards on the ferry front, an AEC Maritime closed-loop scrubber system was installed onboard Scandlines’ Schleswig-Holstein in October 2013. Technical superintendent of fleet management Fini Alsted Hansen says: “AEC Maritime’s experience with EGS technology, quality, lead time, and price are among the reasons we chose this system. It has fully met our expectations for around 90% reduction in sulphur emissions.” As a result, the ferry operator is committed to rolling out scrubber technology to the other three vessels operating the Puttgarden-Rødby route during 2014 and 2015. “By installing scrubbers on two of our four vessels, Scandlines will be able to meet the sulphur limit requirements effective from 1 January 2015,” Hansen says. “In January to February 2015, the remaining two vessels will have exhaust gas scrubbers installed at Remontowa shipyard.” In addition, the installation of a hybrid-propulsion system, certified on Prinsesse Benedikte in 2013, has enabled Scandlines to meet a CO2 target of 12-15%. “Deutschland, Prins Richard and Schleswig-Holstein – all operating on the Puttgarden-Rødby route – will be converted to hybrid propulsion in 2014,” says Hansen.
Norwegian cruise and ferry operator Color Line retrofitted four separate open-loop exhaust gas cleaning systems from Wärtsilä to its SuperSpeed 2 ro-pax ferry in spring this year. The scrubber installation ensures compliance with MARPOL Annex VI regulations and with EU Directive 2055/33/EC. The same systems will be installed on three additional vessels. “We evaluated seven different manufacturers before selecting Wärtsilä,” says Jan Helge Pile, SVP marine operations for Color Line. “At today’s prices the scrubber solution is best for our existing fleet. It is also very important for the scrubbers to have a small footprint onboard as we would lose revenue if they were larger. We were lucky to find small-diameter scrubbers from Wärtsilä.”
In response to the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention, two of Condor Ferries’ ro-ro vessels, which run between mainland UK, the Channel Islands and France, are being retrofitted with the Wärtsilä Aquarius Ready system in preparation for its subsequent ballast water management solution. Agreed in February 2014, final equipment delivery is expected to take place within 12 months after the convention has been ratified by 30 states. Graham Belgum, Condor fleet director commented at the time: “This partnership with Wärtsilä has allowed Condor to be ready to fit ballast water treatment without the need to lay up any of our ships, since the preparation work – which requires the ship to be out of service – was completed during planned refit periods. Fitment can then take place in service when the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments is ratified.”
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