Thomson Cruises and Island Cruises announced it has appointed Columbia Ship Management as its technical management partner for its three ‘owned’ cruise ships – Thomson Celebration, Thomson Dream and Island Escape. The contract, which breaks new ground in the cruise industry, according to Thomson, begins in November 2014.

Incumbent Columbia Ship Management (CSM), which has worked with Thomson Cruises and latterly Island Cruises for over ten years, won the five-year contract after a thorough tender process involving several of the industry’s leading ship management companies.   The new contract will be structured in a very different and innovative way, bringing ship owners and managers closer together in a more collaborative partnership.

The key innovations include a structure of joint governance committees that enable collective decisions to be taken on all aspects of the operations and financial processes, with full transparency between the two parties.  In addition this allows the very top level of management of both organisations to be closely involved with the operation.

In a move fully supported by CSM, Thomson Cruises will become more engaged in directing operations on-board by employing its Captains and Chief Engineers directly, rather than through the ship management company as is conventionally the case.  An independent safety consultant from the wider industry will be appointed, to challenge operations and advise on best practice; helping Thomson Cruises keep abreast of industry innovation and avoid complacency.  

To support this there will also be a very detailed service level agreement, specifying how Thomson Cruises and CSM will operate to standards of excellence, rather than simply relying on the safety net of regulatory compliance.  

Helen Caron, managing director of Thomson Cruises & Island Cruises said; “I am delighted to announce our new partnership with Columbia Ship Management.  Over the last 18 months our teams have worked together, to develop an innovative governance structure that brings ship owners and managers closer together in a more collaborative partnership.

“As a result I firmly believe that Columbia Ship Management is the right partner to ensure that we continue to drive the highest operational, safety and environmental standards – a key part of our plans as we enhance the fleet going forward.”

The new contract does not affect the operation of Thomson Cruises’ two chartered ships Thomson Majesty and Thomson Spirit, however some of the same innovations will be rolled out on these ships as well.