Super-efficient new cruise ships are fitted with the very latest green technology, but those already afloat require maintenance and upgrades to ensure they are up to date. Working on the submerged sections of titanic vessels is no easy task; Subsea Global Solutions’ executive vice-president, Rick Shilling, looks at how operators can benefit from the expertise of underwater service specialists.

The cruise industry has long striven for maximum efficiency and environmental friendliness. In 2015, these ambitions show no sign of letting up: flag state and classification bodies require yearly inspections of the wetted surfaces of vessels to ensure that they remain seaworthy and safe while in service. Cruise operators also perform inspections to ensure equipment is operating efficiently, seals and valves aren’t compromised and that nothing has attached itself to submerged sections.

Every aspect of a ship is scrutinised in the quest for optimisation, from the engine room to the cabins, and the stern to the bow. Assessing the efficiency of a liner’s submerged sections, such as its hull, or propellers, however, requires specialist expertise that is beyond the scope of most operators.

The hull picture

"Environmental and regulatory compliance are two major challenges for ship operators today," says Rick Shilling, executive vice-president for business development and engineering divisions of Subsea Global Solutions, an underwater service provider for the cruise industry.

"Operators are continually asking subcontractors and suppliers to find more efficient and environmentally friendly ways to manage the wetted surfaces of hulls," he continues. "Subsea Global Solutions plays a vital role in keeping cruise vessels operating efficiently, ensures they comply with regulations and maintains them in service, without schedule deviations, when emergency underwater repairs are required."

Operators are always looking for cost-effective ways to perform underwater maintenance. With new hull coating formulas released every year, the need to evolve cleaning equipment and train workers in its use is more important than ever. The relevant equipment increasingly requires highly skilled and experienced operators, and such personnel are provided by companies like Subsea Global Solutions, which designs and manufactures equipment for hull maintenance.

Well-maintained propellers are crucial to optimising fuel efficiency and perfecting the polishing process has enabled Subsea Global Solutions to ensure that blade surfaces are much smoother. As well as developing its own innovative practices, the team has reacted to the developments of those involved in manufacturing and servicing liners. Paint and coating suppliers are always testing new formulas and Shilling’s teams need to update their own equipment and processes to support these changes.

Subsea success story

Now that underwater inspections, propeller polishing and hull maintenance are common expectations, Subsea Global Solutions is pushing to see what other necessary operations can be conducted underwater. "Recently, the firm has been contracted by several cruise operators to install large overboard discharge pipes and sea chests while their vessels remain in service and cruising, so that seawater exhaust gas scrubbers could be installed," says Shilling.

"We considered the complexity of these types of projects and the vessels’ itineraries when developing unique procedures for installing these pipes and sea chests while the liners remained in service. Safety, hull integrity and operational matters were considered in order to develop and implement port-by-port execution plans for each ship."

Carrying out complex procedures that occur over multiple locations requires heightened levels of collaboration between regulators, operators, suppliers and service companies. As well as ensuring the safe, efficient completion of subsea maintenance tasks, this level of cohesion has enabled Shilling’s company to thrive and become one of the leading underwater service providers.

"Through open collaboration with its industry partners and customers, Subsea Global Solutions is the web that brings many industry stakeholders together," he says. "This networking has made the business successful and Subsea Global Solutions the industry’s trusted resource for unrivalled service."

With the need for regulatory compliance and environmentally responsible practice showing no signs of easing, Shilling can expect this web to continue growing for years to come.