Covid-19 brings flexibility of cruise ship designs to the spotlight
The Naval Architect January 2021
The Covid-19 pandemic has raised two questions about the flexibility of the designs of cruise ships. The first one relates to modifications that may be necessary to adapt existing vessels to operate in the new environment and the second one to possible effects of extended delivery times on the commercial and technical lifespan of newbuildings. Prior to the crisis, the orderbook of cruise ship newbuildings extended to 2027 and as some deliveries have been delayed, the question arises whether changes to designs may become necessary e.g. due to advances in technology.
The timely availability of vaccines will play a major role here, believes Tom Strang, SVP Maritime Affairs at Carnival Corporation. But he notes: “There may be some benefit to looking at changes to ventilation and air filtration – as you can see from announcements by different cruise lines – this may include use of different filter grades, UV treatment (ultra violet light) and reduction in air recycling for some areas.”
“Apart from that there may some changes in internal layouts and space allocations regarding hand washing facilities, queuing space etc. to allow for social distancing and restricted access areas where necessary as well as other recommendations from the various public health and medical authorities.”
Looking further ahead, Strang says that new technologies, changing consumer tastes and new regulations all influence the design of cruise ships. However, the large size of the vessels and an efficient design with close cooperation between Carnival, the shipyards and equipment suppliers meant that the challenges were manageable.
Advances such as alternative fuels have the potential to change the face of shipping significantly over time, but does not mean that the existing cruise ship orderbook will become obsolete, says Esa Jokioinen, director of sales and marketing at Deltamarin, the Finnish naval architects. “Although the development of new solutions does speed up: LNG has been used as marine fuel for 20 years, but it only now starts to become a true alternative for global operations,” he tells The Naval Architect.
Cruise ships are engaged in worldwide trading and for this reason, the owners need to look at the pros and cons of new developments against a broader background than, for example, ferry companies. The established builders of cruise ships and the cruise lines that contract newbuildings have an understanding that not all technical details are agreed at the time a contract is signed.
“These European yards are used to having flexibility in the design, so that the final details will be agreed with the owner as the design process moves ahead. Ultimately, introducing any changes to the agreed plans is primarily a financial question,” Jokioinen says.
Switching to a different kind of fuel than what had been planned at first would incur such costs that it is not a viable option, but there are several lighter changes than can be made should need arise. Against this background, the fact that the published orderbook for cruise ships was extended to 2027 already before the crisis and that the deliveries of some ships have been postponed does not pose a threat that ships will be significantly obsolete when they leave a shipyard.
“It is also possible that deliveries of some ships may be postponed further: this depends on how quickly operations are resumed and the ability of cruise lines to invest in the future. In light of the current situation I would look at the published orderbook and particularly the timelines with a certain degree of criticism,” Jokioinen notes, adding that it would not surprise him if not all the options that are included in the orderbook were not eventually taken up.
For the full article please see the January 2021 edition of The Naval Architect.