Expedition Ship Newbuilding Rush Could Risk Safety
Booming demand for expedition ships should not mean that good and safe shipbuilding practices for passenger vessels are compromised, leading naval architecture and engineering company Foreship has warned.
The consultancy, which has more cruise ship construction, consultation and conversion design references than any other company, believes that lack of consistency in the initial designs being rushed to market for vessels of around 10,000 GT may conflict with established safety and environmental values.
“Some designs we have seen do not meet the cruise ship Safe Return to Port provisions that were developed for a very good reason at the IMO,” says Markus Aarnio, Chairman of Foreship. “These are smaller vessels, but they are still complex passenger ships. As such, they need to be envisaged as cruise ships from the outset.”
Aarnio says he is particularly concerned that some proposed expedition ships designs are tailor-made to avoid Safe Return to Port requirements, as they have two over-length main vertical zones or one vertical zone which is “not counted.” “This is allowed in principle, if the Alternative Design analysis proves that two over-length main vertical zones without Safe Return to Pprt is at least as safe as three main vertical zones with Safe Return to Port,” says Aarnio. “But how could this kind of analysis be justified? Responsible owners would follow the Safe Return to Port main principles even for smaller explorations ships.”
Aarnio also suggests that more consideration is given to the efficient use of space and energy on these smaller ships and to meeting the new more stringent SOLAS2020 damage stability requirements in a clever way. “There are projects where very little space has been reserved for technical areas, and this can create extra cost and problems later. In operation; this might result in a ship not having an exhaust gas economizer or not enough space for modern energy-efficient air handling units.”
He says that some designs seem to include tanks or voids at the ship’s sides more typical of offshore supply ships. “On passenger ships this can create design issues later with escape and cross-flooding arrangements. Having full width compartments with tanks closer to the centerline and thus avoiding asymmetry in damages results in a safer and more environmentally sound design.
“These smaller expedition ships are not cargo vessels or boats. They must be designed to be fit for purpose, as passenger ships operating in remote areas. Smaller size does not mean that safety or energy efficiency should take a lower priority than is the case for bigger ships.”
Foreship has been involved with more than 10 Polar Code passenger ship projects to date, including two landmark contracts: a luxury cruise vessel for Crystal Cruises and a Discovery Yacht for Scenic.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.