Eelco Cornelisse, director of marine operations, China, Royal Caribbean International, said as ships grow in size in China, they are outpacing available drydocks.
"In Europe and the U.S. the drydocks have grown with the size of the ships," Cornelisse said at China Cruise Shipping. "We need a shipyard that is located near major cities and airports. This is to facilitate the teams that will have to come on and off the ship."
He said there needs to be a strong yard management team that understands the complex needs of a cruise ship drydocking. "There is no opportunity to extend the drydock time. This is the first thing we tell any shipyard."
Drydocks should also have cooling water hookups for machinery, in addition to drinking water for up to 2,800 workers and crew that may be onboard during the work.
He also noted "complex service needs" when it comes to Azipod propulsion.
"They are complex, difficult to maintain, and it's challenging to do it in a short period of time."
He also talked about advanced hull coatings. "Are you ready to apply these coatings for us? Are you able to do this in an environmentally sensitive way?" he asked of a conference crowd, including many Chinese shipyards in attendance.
"One of the liming factors is the maximum draft of the vessel. Our biggest vessel sailing in these waters has a draft of nine meters. We can immediately exclude most of the big shipyards in China.
"I have had the pleasure of talking with many shipyards, and I believe the majority of them underestimate the complexity of the work drydocking a cruise ship," Cornelisse continued.
The solutions will need to come at some point, however, as in three years the Quantum of the Seas will be required to drydock as it hits its fifth year of service.
"The window is now, the Quantum is two years old, in three years she needs to drydock and we will start that discussion soon," Cornelisse said. "The growing market will create growing needs."
Cornelisse is based in the Royal Caribbean office in Shanghai, supporting the company's regional ships, and working to expand relationships with local marine authorities, shipyards and vendors in China. He joined Royal Cairbbean in 2008, having previously spent 13 years with Holland America Line in various marine engineering and environmental management positions.