Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2023

105 In the past, most major ferry operators had a spare vessel on standby for emergency use but this is becoming increasingly unviable in today’s market have welcomed the cushion of a reserve ship to help out when necessary. And while the operating team might plead the case of customers who may go elsewhere if sailings are cancelled, it is ultimately money in the bank that counts. If the spare ship is no longer available, sensible ferry operators have to think more constructively. It might be that in the event of a ship becoming unavailable, it is possible to charter in a replacement, something that is a more regular occurrence on the freight berth than is possible with ro-pax vessels, which tend to be fewer in number. It may be that a degree of resilience is provided by sister vessels on the same route, managing to squeeze in additional sailings to compensate. Alternatively, it might be that an operator with a reasonably interoperable fleet can temporarily switch a ship. But operators must make an effort to find a solution; cancelled sailings, frustrated customers and the sort of publicity such failings generate produce a negative legacy of perceived unreliability that takes both time and effort to erase. It might be argued that modern ferries are more reliable, because of their multiengined arrangement, although any marine engineer will point out there are still plenty of issues that can go wrong. They will also note that the attitude of the ‘bean counters’ to spares – which is seen as a cost rather than a sensible precautionary investment – militates against speedy repairs. There are plenty of cases of ships being out of service for far too long, as spare parts, or experts to sort out the problems, are sourced from the other side of the world. And these days, there aren’t dry docks sitting empty waiting for a ferry to need them, should underwater repair become essential. There have to be alternative plans, if a reasonable degree of resilience is to be maintained. And it is not just the ships to which stuff might happen. Linkspans and terminal equipment might become damaged, with alternatives not being available at the same terminal. A few years ago in a UK port, three busy ferry routes were simultaneously compromised when the lock which gave access to their berths was seriously damaged. But a riverside berth was still available, so with an astonishing degree of organisation by the terminal operator, all three services were somehow accommodated. That was resilience, writ large. “ If the spare ship is no longer available, sensible ferry operators have to think more constructively” :Photo: SOPHIE