The cruise ship industry has perhaps been the most successful maritime sector in recent years, with consistent growth in passenger and ship numbers over more than 20 years that shows no sign of slowing. Between April and December 2018 alone, ten new vessels totalling 1.3 million gross tonnes are due to be launched, including the 230,000 tonne, 5,400 passenger Symphony of the Seas for Royal Caribbean, which is the largest yet built. This increase in both numbers and size presents a challenge for owners and operators when it comes to maintaining them to the high standards that their customers demand. These huge vessels require yards that not only have the capability to service their complex needs, but which are also conveniently located near both their home ports and cruising grounds, and have docks large enough to accommodate them.
Damen has a long history of maintaining cruise ships, but in recent years new yard acquisitions, plus the redeployment of resources, have strengthened its bid to become a leading force in cruise ship refit, repair and maintenance in Europe and introduced new capability further afield.
One such example is Damen Shiprepair Brest in France. Acquired at the end of 2012, this modern and well-equipped yard was already well-known for its expertise in maintaining and repairing the latest generation of LNG Carriers, as well as other large vessels, but its capabilities make it a prime candidate for delivering services to the new generation of super-sized cruise ships. This is due in part to its convenient position at the ga teway to the Atlantic, close to turnaround Port of Southampton. Its exceptional drydocks and yard logistics layout are also of particular interest to operators.
Drydock 3, its largest at 420 metres x 80 metres, would comfortably take the 362-metre by 48-metre Symphony of the Seas with room to spare. Projects have already been won. The 329-metre, 156,000 tonne Norwegian Epic was one of the first cruise ships to come to Brest, where she underwent a three-week maintenance and refit programme. Early in 2018 the P&O Cruises’ Grand-class cruise ship Ventura completed a two-week inspection and maintenance docking.
Major features of the Ventura programme included the installation of two exhaust gas scrubbers, for which the yard also manufactured and installed a sea chest. While the ship was in drydock 3 the hull was also ultra-high-pressure water blasted and then, along with the superstructure, repainted. Additional works during the two-week stopover included maintenance of the propulsion systems and stabilisers, plus other minor repairs.
The Ventura project highlights a number of factors that are critical for cruise ship operators when selecting yards that can meet their needs. To begin with, for all cruise ship dockings, completing the works within the scheduled period is absolutely critical. In the case of the Ventura, just two days after the agreed date for completion she left Southampton on a twelve-day cruise to the Canary Islands and Lisbon with over 3,000 passengers on board.
The logistics at the yard for cruise ships are also particularly challenging, with a wide range of subcontractors needing access to the vessel both inside and out around the clock.
Ample space near the dock is required for the hundreds of containers, trucks and garbage skips that need to be positioned and manoeuvred as necessary during the course of the project. And, of course, meticulous planning to exact specifications needs to be carried out in the months preceding the ship’s arrival, following which, organisation must be of the highest order.
An even more recent addition to the Damen portfolio that is attracting the interest of the cruise industry is the Rotterdam yard formerly owned by Keppel Offshore & Marine and now renamed Damen Verolme Rotterdam. With its prime location and facilities originally built to handle supertankers, including the biggest dry dock (by area) in north-western Europe at 405 x 90 metres, the management team there is now looking to expand cruise sector activity and is actively adapting its capabilities to address the demands of cruise ship repair and modification. This includes developing relationships with the necessary specialist sub-contractors and suppliers, and also refining its logistics and project management processes to better manage the increasing role that they expect the yard to play in the future.
Damen Verolme Rotterdam and its workforce also has previous experience of working with cruise ships, having hosted the 362-metre, 225,000 GT cruise ship Oasis of the Seas in 2014. This involved an extensive programme of works to be completed within 14 days, including modifications to her three Azipod main propulsion units and the four bow thrusters, and the replacement of one of the ship’s main engines. This was achieved by settling the vessel on a 3.3-metre high dock-block arrangement within the drydock. The technicians then went through the double bottom to remove the old engine and insert the new. Meanwhile, the refurbishment works involved over 200 containers of new furniture and materials going aboard and around 600 tonnes of waste materials being removed.
The yard also played a key role in a rather different project; the lengthening of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Enchantment of the Seas. This required the insertion of a 22-metre mid-section, taking the vessel to 301 metres, along with all the associated works to prepare her for operations.
Damen’s ambitions in cruise maintenance extend beyond Europe. On the other side of the Atlantic in the southern Caribbean lies the Dutch island of Curaçao and on it Damen Shiprepair Curaçao, acquired early in 2017. Conveniently located away from the Hurricane Belt, Damen’s first ship repair yard in the Americas has one of the largest dry docks in the Caribbean; 270 metres in length and 44 metres across, and in the summer of 2018 will begin operating a floating drydock measuring 230 x 45 metres. It also has three mooring and repair quays totalling 975 metres in length. The yard offers Damen standards and expertise to cruise ships operating in the Caribbean Sea and surrounding waters, representing a valuable resource to the industry.
“We are in an excellent position to meet the needs of 21st century cruise ships,” says Rogier van der Laan, Product manager Cruise for Damen Shiprepair & Conversion.
“Damen’s commitment to quality and efficiency resonates with this sector and our network of repair yards gives us a flexibility and ability to respond rapidly that few others can match.”