Speed Is King for Harland & Wolff Shipyard

Viking Cruises vessels at Harland Wolff

From the moment it entered the cruise industry in 2020, Harland & Wolff – with its two large docks in Belfast, Northern Ireland – has been rapidly growing. In its first year, the shipyard, owned by InfraStrata, docked four cruise vessels: three Viking Cruises ships and P&O Cruises’ Azura.

“I think four ships in the yard is a good place to be for the first year,” said John Wood, InfraStrata’s CEO.

Harland & Wolff has also recently opened an office in Miami, allowing it to better serve its customer base.

“We see it as a key link between the operators in Miami,” Wood explained to Cruise Industry News. “The idea we’re working on is to give end-to-end service so that if they want to speak to someone about dockings or other projects going on, instead of waiting for the shipyard to open, there’s somebody available to talk to them pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Wood sees Harland & Wolff’s Belfast location as an advantage since a lot of the supply chain for dockings is based in Europe and oftentimes in the UK.

“So, it cuts down on a lot of shipping, moving materials from overseas and things like that. In this COVID environment especially, keeping things as close to one place as you can certainly makes everything easier. And I think the productivity that we’ve got in the yards now, the hourly rate that we’ve got going, competing with the North America yards, the Bahamas and some of the European yards – we’re in a really good position,” he said.

According to Wood, Harland & Wolff had nine live queries for drydockings at press time: one for 2021 and eight for 2022 and 2023 (see 2022 Drydocking and Refurbishment Report by Cruise Industry News for a comprehensive update on the drydocking market in 2022 and beyond).

“We see there’ll be a lot of dockings coming up if for nothing more than doing housecleaning to improve efficiency, given the price of fuel. We also think that with the layups and the length of the layups, there’ll be a lot of work that will come up in dockings,” he said. “Then, when you get to the ships that have been laid up in cold layup, we see them being a lot more problematic. I think there’ll be a lot more of what comes out of that: potentially longer and more protracted dockings as they come in.”

Wood also predicts major revitalization projects coming back by the end of 2023 and is, therefore, preparing the Harland & Wolff facilities for accommodating that demand.

“We’re still in the process of looking at plans to increase the depth of our building dock down to 13 to 14 meters, so that we can bring in the next generation, the next class of ships. So that as the ships continue to get bigger, we’ll be able to continue to match. Given the length of our building dock with 556 meters, we just want that extra depth in the dock to accommodate that,” Wood explained.

He believes speed will soon become a determining factor in cruise lines’ choice of drydock facilities.

“We’ve got a few conversations with cruise owners around 3D engineering, prefabrication, carbon units, module blocks and as much work done in advance as possible. So that when the ship comes in, it’s a case of really getting on with it quickly and putting the ship back into service,” Wood said.

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