During 2020, and across the first three months of this year, the operations of shiprepair yards throughout the Mediterranean were adversely affected by the spread of Covid-19. Yards in this part of the world were particularly impacted by the fact that the cruise and ferry industry practically came to a complete standstill, with most of the global cruise ship fleets laid up and passenger movements contracting sharply, hitting a core element of business for repair and maintenance facilities in the region.
Italian yards were not immune to these general trends and have had to respond proactively to the challenges faced. To contain the spread of disease within its facilities and to protect the health and safety of all personnel, Fincantieri imposed strict measures at its shipyards at Palermo and Trieste, which are largely dedicated to shiprepair and conversion work.
As a result of Italian government decrees, to safeguard the population and control the spread of the disease, shipyard work activities were highly regulated, restrictions were imposed on the movement and travel of personnel, and regulations for social distancing, hygiene and use of personal protective equipment had to be observed.
Nonetheless, Fincantieri reports that the volume of repair and conversion projects in 2020 compared well with the previous year, mainly because work continued in Palermo on a three-ship deal signed with Windstar Cruises in 2018 for the lengthening and modernisation of Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride. Each of the projects involved extending the vessel’s mid-body by 26m, replacing the main engines, upgrading the electrical generators and automation systems, and completing an extensive interior refurbishment of public areas, passenger cabins and open decks.
Work began on Star Breeze in 2019 and, after the successful lengthening and completion of sea trials, this ship was re-delivered to Windstar during early November 2020. Repair and conversion works are ongoing on both Star Legend and Star Pride, with the former scheduled for completion during the first half of 2021 and the Star Pride later in the year.
During November and December 2020, Fincantieri Palermo also completed the installation of a closed-loop exhaust gas scrubber on cruise ship MSC Divina. This followed previous scrubber installations on MSC Splendida as well as Grimaldi-owned vessels Cruise Roma and Cruise Barcelona.
A number of internal organisational changes were implemented by the group in February, merging the Fincantieri life cycle services unit, including shiprepair and conversion, with the merchant ships division.
Daniele Fanara, senior vice president of the newly created services business unit at Fincantieri, comments: “This was done with the aim of integrating the knowledge and expertise of both the newbuilding and after sales teams, to improve internal capabilities and become an effective partner with owners throughout the ship’s life cycle. There will also be enhanced synergies with other Fincantieri units providing specialised services to the cruise sector, including marine interiors, Fincantieri industrial services and the Fincantieri HVAC department.”
Another leading Italian shiprepair specialist, San Giorgio Del Porto (SGdP), and its French sister yard, CNM, are both part of the Genova Industry Navali Group. The pandemic reduced demand for shiprepair related work at both facilities in 2020 to “slightly less” than the 80 ships handled in 2019 between them. There are, however, signs of activity in the first half of 2021 that indicates business has turned the corner.
One of the biggest projects completed by the SGdP yard so far this year involved a three-month refit of the pipelayer Saipem FDS, which left Genoa in early April. The scope of work included 126,000m² of painting to the hull and tanks, the overhaul of the main 600tonne capacity deck crane, 30tonnes of steel replacement, the complete overhaul of six thrusters, and the installation of two ballast water treatment systems.
SGdP has also completed a major naval refit project on the amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney, which spent 148 days at the yard, including 109 days in drydock, before departing earlier this year. This involved work to the vessel’s stern tube shaft and propeller tail shaft, as well as the rudder and propeller. The yard further restored 2,400m² of the flight deck area.
While cruise work overall was down on 2019 levels, the yard has carried some significant projects in recent months. One such example was a refit of the decks and cabins on Oceania Cruises’ Nautica, which also received a new propeller, and Seven Seas Navigator. Both of these cruise ships were also fitted with a scrubber system while in the Genoa shipyard.