Stuart HawkinsThe specs for the new Virgin Cruises ships have been completed in general terms, according to Stuart Hawkins, senior vice president marine. “We know the number of engines we will have and their sizes,” he told Cruise Industry News. “That is true for all the components, but the final decision will be made with the shipyard later on.”

Hawkins was named to his position at Virgin earlier this year and is involved in the design and specification of its new ships and will be overseeing their construction. The first of three 110,000-ton, 2,800 passengers ships is slated to enter service in 2020, then in 2021 and 2022.

Going to sea at 16 as a deck cadet on a cargo ship, Hawkins joined Lloyd's Register as a trainee, went back to school to become a naval architect and chartered engineer before rejoining the classification society as a surveyor mainly of passenger ships, including the Crown and Regal Princess being built at Fincantieri. He has since worked for Disney Cruise Line and Princess Cruises, overseeing more than 10 new ship deliveries.

Among the many aspects Hawkins is focusing, he said: “We have to look forward and future-proof our new ships.” With all the recent developments in the cruise industry, from energy management technologies to exhaust gas cleaning systems, he described it as an evolution of technologies and systems that will be integrated into the new ships.

“We are keen to make the ships as environmentally friendly as possible,” he added. “And we need to ensure from an operations point of view that we not only have the equipment, but that our officers and crew will know how to use it properly.”

The new ships will have exhaust gas cleaning systems working in both closed and open loops and be Tier III compliant.

Virgin has already set the stage. “We have created huge expectations,” Hawkins conceded. “It is important that we deliver. With the first ship being entering service in early 2020, it looks like a long lead time, but it is actually ridiculously short.

“We have deadlines and it is important to stay on top of things, and ship are so complex that everybody needs to play their part and be on their game to make it work.

“And while hotels can have soft openings, we have to be there and deliver from day one.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2015