The Fine Art of Conversion

The Azamara Quest, which underwent conversion earlier this year (courtesy Azamara)

By MarEx 2016-06-15 21:07:20

Cruise ships built pre-2000 are ripe for conversion work that will not only boost capacity but, more importantly, meet the expectations of today’s cruisers, says naval architect and design engineering company Foreship.

If not yet commonplace, cruise ships of 5,000+ capacity are numerous enough to have changed the industry’s business model. The “boardwalk,” waterpark, open-air laser tag and onboard go-karting are today’s top-line attractions, but their real function is to entertain extra-revenue-earning cruisers while they occupy all those additional cabins.

Owners of older ships, with features that once seemed futuristic but are now taken for granted, have looked to upgrade capacity, but their planning also needs to deliver a completely new and competitive cruise experience. Typical is a 2017 project by Foreship to add new passenger capacity to a ship built before 2000 for one of the industry’s leading operators. At the time of its delivery, the 2,500-passenger ship was considered state-of-the-art.

Upgrading the Pre-Millennials

Teemu Määttänen, Conversion Manager at Foreship, says the 2017 upgrade is characteristic of projects that are appropriate for a generation built between 1988 and 1998. Up to eight ships could be considered for similar projects in the future by the same owner, he adds.

On average, owners working on converting ships built from the mid-1980s to the end of the last century are looking to add up to five to six percent in passenger capacity. On top of the additional berths, such conversions can include new outdoor LED/video screens, water park features, and new specialty restaurants. The big challenge usually involves “figuring out how what is feasible compares to what the client wants,” Määttänen explains.

Foreship’s repair and conversion reference list extends to more than 1,000 projects. Its cruise ship conversions in early 2016 included both the Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest as well as the NCL Pride of America. Services provided encompass everything from structures, weight and stability, HVAC and electrical systems to drydock supervision and support, GAs, technical specifications, SOLAS compliance verification, Class approvals and documentation.

Määttänen’s 2017 conversion project envisages new cabin blocks, an extra deck in the forward section, more cabins with balconies, a new waterpark, and an upgrade in restaurant facilities. More restaurants means more galleys and everything that goes with them – new ventilation, additional fire doors, enhanced fire safety systems, more automation, new escape routes – all of which can require significant structural work.

“Ultimately, it may not be possible to do everything exactly in line with the initial plan. The priorities have to be established in a feasibility study so that the project can proceed and be managed in a logical way,” says Määttänen. “I sometimes need to adapt the design or revise the cabling or piping routing and coordinate between the owner and Class.”

Managing Stability

He says he takes particular satisfaction in projects where the Foreship “sponson-ducktail” has been added to a ship’s stern to increase stability, a necessity when capacity-driven conversions add weight as well as height to the superstructure. This is often the case when new cabins and balconies are added.

Based on its long record of experience and using the latest CFD tools, Foreship ducktails have practically no effect on a vessel’s speed-to-power performance. The stability gain depends on a number of factors, including vessel size, hull form and other characteristics, but once the sponson-ducktail is added the vessel typically has even better stability than when it was new.

“Every proposal has to be considered first in the context of ship stability and safety,” Määttänen states. “It must meet Class standards.” – MarEx

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.