Cruise ship under construction in ItalyThe current generation of ships being built offers many new product features and behind the scenes technical innovations, according to Gabriele Cocco, senior executive vice president of merchant shipbuilding for Fincantieri. “All our newbuildings represent steps forward,” he said, “using new technologies and complying with the new rules and regulations.”

Furthermore, he said: “The new (cruise) ships all represent evolution of the cruise product with new guest service features, such as communications.”

In the longer term, Cocco said: “Sooner or later, cruise ships will use LNG for fuel, there is only a question of when, because then they can sail anywhere in the world and satisfy emissions restrictions. Before that happens, however, rules need to be standardized and a bunkering infrastructure must be in place. Meanwhile, new ferries, that sail from point to point, are being built for LNG.”

Building LNG-fueled ferries for Canadian owners, Cocco said that Fincantieri was accumulating relevant knowledge for taking the step to LNG-fueled cruise ships.

With nine newbuild orders (plus two options), Fincantieri has the largest orderbook in the industry.

“Historically, we have built cruise ships of different sizes,” Cocco said. “We have been active with small, medium and large buildings. And while the competition has focused on big ships, we have cultivated cruise lines with smaller ships, which allow us to utilize our yards more efficiently.”

Thus, in addition to building big ships for Carnival, Costa, Holland America, P&O and Princess, Fincantieri is building medium-sized ships for Regent Seven Seas and start-up Viking Cruises, and smaller ships for Ponant.

Life-Cycle Cost Reduction

The priority is the control and reduction of the life-cycle costs, said Massimo Debenedetti, director of research and development at Fincantieri.

“We are focusing on making ship operations more efficient,” he explained, “both in terms of propulsion and hotel consumption. We take a systematic approach to the ship and all the onboard systems. In addition, we can provide the owner with tools to operate more efficiently,”

Debenedetti added that reduced hull friction may be one of the most important ways to save energy. Reduced friction can be achieved by designing an optimized hull and using low friction paint, working with what he called the interface between the hull and the water.

As for a bubble system (so-called air lubrication with bubbles blown out from a ship’s bottom, reducing the friction between the hull and the seawater), he said that it is interesting in principle, but that its value depends on the baseline. “If you have a poorly optimized hull, bubbles may help. But if your hull is optimized, it is a different game.”

Other priorities include the maximization and integration of the payload, increasing revenue per passenger, onboard security and safety, reduction of the environmental footprint, regulatory compliance at  competitive cost, reduced time-to-market, improved production processes and more.

Over the past couple of years Fincantieri has enhanced its approach to research and development, adopting a more formal process, in order to make it a competitive tool. Thus, according to Debenedetti, research and development have been aligned with the overall corporate strategy. The company is monitoring the evolution of systems, components, know-how, platforms and new concepts, and is working to develop its own proprietary solutions at system and component levels.

He added that cruise, ferry, offshore, mega-yachts, naval vessels and repairs offer unique opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas.

>> Also in this section: STX's Current Outlook as well as in-depth analysis of newbuilding projects at Norwegian and P&O.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2013