Ovation of the Seas at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal

Speaking in an interview ahead of the SMM conference in Germany, Dr. Carsten Wiebers, head of maritime for KfW IPEX-Bank, underscored there was no bubble around the cruise industry.

KfW IPEX-Bank provides financing for newbuild projects, and said it financed eight different cruise projects in 2015.

“Cruising is a consumer product, which is heavily influenced by regional diversity due to language and cultural differences,” Wiebers said. “To some degree you can escape one market and go to the next. Further on the demand side there are millions of customers who make their individual choices.

“Price is important, but the industry is maturing and cruisers are learning to differentiate quality. The potential to gain market share from land-based tourism is huge. Global cruise penetration is only 1.8 percent. Unlike other maritime markets the supply side is limited. Shipyard capacities are booked for at least the next 5 years,” he added.

In the bigger picture, Wiebers said that the global shipping market does face a constant over-supply caused by cheap money.

“I am concerned that money will remain cheap, prompting shipowners to place orders when the first green shoots start showing in charter and freight rates,” he said. “Politically supported shipyard capacity only adds fuel to the fire. Under these circumstances, shipping is undergoing not just a cyclical downturn, but a structural change.”

Wiebers is moving departments at the bank after 18 years in maritime, and  Holger Apel will take over his post overseeing a 50 person staff.