"We are focused on expansion," said Burkhard Mueller, vice president of fleet services at AIDA Cruises. "We started with the Diva and have three more sister ships coming. The biggest challenge is to find enough qualified and skilled crew to man the new ships."The marine operations function faces a variety of challenges as the industry sails into 2008. Fuel consumption continues to be a major concern due to dramatically increasing prices, but recruitment of deck and engine crew and officers are also taking on added significance in an overheated maritime employment environment. At the same time, the eroding value of the dollar is putting pressure on crew that is paid in dollars, but lives in non-dollar environments.

At Royal Caribbean International, fuel consumption is high on the list. The objective is to knock fuel consumption down by 2 percent to 3 percent a year, said Captain William Wright, senior vice president of marine operations. His challenge for 2008 will be to maintain flat consumption despite adding new tonnage. That means the line has to reduce the consumption another 2 percent to 3 percent on the existing fleet.

Roberto Martinoli, executive vice president of operations at Carnival Cruise Lines, is also focused on the refurbishment and upgrades of the Fantasy class. "We have just completed Evolution of Fun upgrades on two ships, spending $50 million on each. They are better than new,” he said.

At V. Ships Leisure, Lorenzo Malvarosa, CEO, said his focus is on crewing, fuel savings and the environment. V. Ships provides management services to 89 passenger vessels, including cruise ships, ferries and mega yachts, for some 35 different clients.

"We are focused on expansion," said Burkhard Mueller, vice president of fleet services at AIDA Cruises. "We started with the Diva and have three more sister ships coming. The biggest challenge is to find enough qualified and skilled crew to man the new ships."

Senior Vice President of Fleet Operations Dan Grausz at Holland America Line said his main focus is on officer retention and hiring. "Like the rest of the maritime industry we are facing an imbalance in supply and demand of licensed officers. We are working harder to make sure our compensation scheme and the whole package is attractive," he said.

At P&O, John Marden, director of fleet services, said he was busy moving Cunard Line from California to Southampton.

Crystal Cruises summed it up. “We have two issues that are equally important,” said Joe Valenti, senior vice president of marine operations, “gaining fuel efficiencies and maintaining stability in our technical staff. There is a scarcity of qualified people – especially in electrical and electronics.”

Excerpted from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2007/2008