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Covid-19 brings flexibility of cruise ship designs to the spotlight

The Naval Architect January 2021

 

Jokioinen Esa 2019The 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.