Giuseppe Messina knows that a lot can go wrong when building a cruise ship. That’s why Fincantieri’s project manager for Carnival Cruise Lines’ newbuildings (which recently completed the $450 million Carnival Liberty in Monfalcone) places such high priority and importance on one thing: proactive risk management. “As you can imagine, designing and building a project like the Carnival Liberty involves huge risks, especially in the globalized context,” Messina said.

One case in point among many: years ago, an unforeseeable severe meteorological event stopped production at a supplier site during the building process, Messina said, jeopardizing the delivery of a crucial part, forcing the shipyard to act quickly to find a solution. “We had to rearrange the building schedule, but we are always prepared to do that so we managed,” he said, adding that it is a testament to the yard’s ultimate flexibility to be able to keep things running smoothly. “We are talking about equipment that is 10 meters long, five meters high, with tens of tons in weight,” Messina added. “You need it at the right time otherwise you have to reopen the ship and increase risk and jeopardize the building schedule of the ship.”

The ultimate solution? The supplier, which Messina declined to name, worked overtime – 24 hours a day until the job was done, he said – ensuring that the delivery wasn’t compromised.

In case of the Liberty, Messina said, the ship was delivered two weeks early, on July 15. “The complete building process took a little less than 23 months,” Messina said. “It departed the yard in full cruise mode, full of journalists, travel agents and Carnival executives. We got it done relatively fast and one of the most common things we hear when people visit the ship is, ‘How can you do this in less than two years?’”

Continuation of the Destiny Class

The 110,000-ton Liberty contains 2,974 lower berths. The ship is part of the Conquest class, which is a continuation of the original Destiny class, Messina said, with the Conquest and three subsequent ships – the Glory, Valor and Liberty – being 17 meters longer. “The Conquest was the first lengthened version of the Destiny class,” Messina noted. Though the Liberty represents the fourth ship in a series, Messina said every project brings its own set of challenges. “Every one has her own novelties and improvements and new systems,” he noted.

For example, the Liberty is the first in the class to use two 20 MW, 149 rpm Alstom propulsion motors, Messina said. “We used to use ABB motors, but with the Alstom motors we had the opportunity to use a more updated system,” he said. “This was a big change, because it required the re-engineering of the technical spaces and plants.” The ship is also using six new 12-cylinder Wartsila 46C diesel engines, Messina said. Total installed power is rated at 75.6 MW.

According to Richard Vie, vice president of newbuilding and technical development for Carnival Corporation, the previous ships in the Conquest class had engines developed in the 1960s, and it was time for an update. “The Wartsila engines burn less fuel,” he noted. It wasn’t difficult to incorporate them into the Liberty because her size and wide design allowed for the change, Vie said.

The Liberty isn’t using podded propulsion, Vie added. “The Destiny class was designed before that technology was around,” he said. “The redesign costs would be significant to incorporate that into the ship, but we are using pods in some newbuilds. For example, Holland America Line’s Noordam, under construction in Marghera, will utilize pods, as have many of Holland America’s newbuildings over the years.”

As with anything, the adage with shipbuilding, Vie said, is that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ “I think the Liberty is a continuation of a proven design that has worked well in the marketplace,” Vie said. “We are careful with all the changes we want to make and it tends to be evolution, not revolution, in the design. If you have a successful design, it makes sense to build on it, and not make wholesale changes for the sake of it. There’s a lot of incentive to remain with the existing design.”

Indeed, said Messina, who has been Fincantieri’s project manager for Carnival Cruise Lines for three years, and is currently working on the Carnival Freedom under construction at Marghera. “There are slight adjustments, not major changes, with the Liberty. The process has naturally capitalized on past experiences.” 

Excerpt from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2005