If the continuously increasing ship sizes and ever increasing number of special features are excluded, there have not been too many major changes in ship design and technology for several decades, according to Markus Aarnio, managing director of Foreship, a ship engineering and design firm. However, due to recently introduced new rules and regulations, together with the question of future fuels, significant changes are taking place today, he said.

Safe Return to Port

The safe return to port requirement that comes into force by July 1, 2010 is largely being complied with already, according to Karl Morten Wiklund, director of passenger ships at Det Norske Veritas (DNV). Wiklund made a point of distancing himself from what he called an academic debate around the new mandatory requirement.

“Cruise-ship design and construction represent state-of-the-art shipbuilding and compliance,” said Wiklund. “And, contrary to some,” he said, “there are no uncertainties or mysteries surrounding the IMO requirement of a safe and habitable return. However, some yards, owners and manufacturers seem confused,” he added, “and some like to make this more complicated than it has to be.

“Let’s look at the basic concept and not get lost in academic discussions. We are looking at four main criteria: the safe return to port; safe areas onboard for passengers and crew; habitable conditions; and a safety center,” Wiklund said.

New Standards

The cruise industry faces a number of challenges, including achieving better fuel economies and environmental protection, as well as meeting future IMO requirements for recycling and new safety standards, according to Andreas Ullrich, naval architect and ship type manager passenger ships at Germanischer Lloyd (GL).

Get It Right from the Start

At Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, Richard Goodwin, manager of passenger ships, also noted the safe return to port concept, recycling, environmental regulations, including ballast water treatment, and the evolution of ships driven by market development. Longer seasons in Northern Europe and year-round operations in the Mediterranean require different ship designs.

Meanwhile, Goodwin also pointed to the passenger ship safety work of the IMO over the past five years which he described as a “major effort and just about completed.”

The major component of the new standards is the requirement for ships to be able to return safely to port with passengers and crew protected in safe areas in case of any damage to the vessel. “This represents a significant increase in safety,” Goodwin added. “Passengers and crew will remain onboard; a cruise ship will be its own best lifeboat. I consider this real progress compared to some of the efforts in the past which have been more on the cosmetic side.”

Excerpted from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly: Fall 2007