What makes a good cruise ship repair or refit? It's all down to the planning, argues Navantia-Cádiz Shiprepairs, which has consolidated its presence in the repairs market recently with a string of successful projects.
More than ten years ago, Navantia took the decision to investigate the cruise repairs segment as a possible future market. At the time, Navantia-Cádiz Shiprepairs' yard was planning to make the necessary investments to enable it to accomplish repairs and refits on cruise liners within warranty. Since then, the yard has been increasing its presence in the market, progressing from short dockings and emergency repairs to the achievement in 2013 of five complex refits ranging from three to five weeks each.
Every year, the cruise industry's technical staff suffer more pressure from commercial teams that, driven by the economic crisis, try to minimise the off-hire time spent at the docks and during refits. On the other hand, the same commercial teams are demanding renovations that enhance service and make vessels more attractive for passengers, improving the quality of their surroundings. These two elements pose a challenge with every repair and refit that shows up in the yards.
Navantia-Cádiz enjoys close relations with the Royal Caribbean International (RCI) group, as the company that gave it a chance when it was not very well known in the cruise industry. With RCI, Navantia has been able to develop a relationship that ensures the success of every repair and refit. The two companies share a very open dialogue, with all the relevant information exchanged and meetings arranged 18 months before the vessel's arrival.
A repair or refit of a cruise vessel differs hugely from that of a conventional ship. The figures used in terms of workload, invoicing, man-hours, rigging, cranes and so forth are considerably more impressive than those involved in regular merchant ship repairs. But Navantia-Cádiz offers the following assurance: "The 24/7 service here is not a propaganda tool; you have to be there every day, every hour to ensure a successful repair."
A cruise refit involves a large number of people working at the same time in a limited space, which is always a challenge. Coordination has to be excellent if all safety, productivity and efficiency criteria are to be met. This is only possible if exhaustive planning is done well ahead of time. Navantia-Cádiz, as the yard, must keep this flow constant and uniform. The yard is responsible for all activities critical to the refit, such as garbage removal, material delivery and service supply, and for all the contractors undertaking the renovations, and its own works when 'duck tails' are being installed - this huge, steel installation a critical item in itself.
With such intense activity at the yard, the importance of proper planning cannot be overstated. It is necessary to have a clear idea of what should be accomplished every day and even every hour, and of the critical path of the vessel. Navantia-Cádiz develops an hourly planning schedule of every refit, so that anyone can find out the number of riggers in the yard at any given time throughout the works. This level of accuracy is necessary for minimising risk and completing a successful repair or refit.
This approach has consolidated Navantia-Cádiz Shiprepairs' successful entry into the cruise market. Seven projects will have been carried out by the end of 2013, five of them extensive refits, and four bookings have already been made for 2014 and 2015, as testament to this fact.