Marine Ops: Celebrity: Empowering the Ships

Celebrity Eclipse at night in Ponta Delgada (photo: Antonio Rebelo)Greg Purdy became vice president of operations at Celebrity Cruises last year, upgrading his vice president of marine operations title, and adding the hotel side of the brand.

“The nice thing about this organization is it came with a team that runs it,” said Purdy, adding that 80 percent of his time is spent on strategic items.

“We can save a lot of fuel by adjusting itineraries,” Purdy explained. “We look at optimizing time in port and the order of ports to keep the speed low.”

While the company’s constant speed initiative is rudimentary, Purdy said it works.    

“Constant speed gets everyone to a certain level,” he continued.

With seasoned mariners aboard Celebrity’s ships, Purdy called it a man-versus-machine situation, with many thinking they can do better than the software.

Then, there is the second level of speed optimization, which happens around the engine loads.

“We’ll get the most efficient engine configurations and then the percentage loads on those engines to optimize the way we are making power.”

Instead of goals on fuel savings, Celebrity builds a fuel plan for each ship, with all the savings included in the plan.

“We build a forecast that takes the prior year, itinerary changes and other factors into account,” Purdy said. “We’ll have a target goal and a stretch goal, and we have a good record of hitting the stretch goal.”

On the green side, the company continues to get better at advanced wastewater purification (AWP), with Purdy describing it as a living system.

Each new ship has taken the system up a level, with Celebrity going back and making modifications to systems on other ships to make them perform better and more efficiently.

Purdy said he was looking at all options in regards to the 2015 emission requirements as Royal Caribbean Cruises (Celebrity’s parent company) continues to pilot-test hardware such as scrubbers.

Purdy said he had seen drawings of retrofitting scrubbers onto the current fleet, both in the funnel and as a “backpack” solution, going around the funnel.

But, in some cases, Celebrity may not install scrubbers, based on deployment, and time inside or outside the proposed emission-restricted areas.

In addition, Celebrity’s Millennium-class ships still have their gas turbines.  Whether those will be put back into use is “all based on the price of fuel.”

With a 60 percent capacity increase now complete with the delivery of the Celebrity Reflection (five new ships since 2008), Purdy said that he was working with President and CEO Michael Bayley on the direction the modern luxury brand is heading.

“Now that we don’t have the growth, we can concentrate more on training,” Purdy explained. “It’s a new world without new ships coming out. It’s quite inspiring to think about where to go now with the product, guests and experience.    

Purdy said he was concentrating on making the fleet empowered, as the ships are closest to the guests.

“We don’t want everything to be a Miami-driven process,” he continued. “We want the ships to be able to make changes and make the experience the best it can be for the passengers.”

Purdy described his role as helping and supporting his team.

“If we fail on something, that is not actually a failure, as we felt empowered and went for it,” he continued.

Purdy also said he was good about not deciding, and empowering his team to make calls, although he was quick to add there is a safety net for bad decisions.

However, at the end of the day, the teams, both onboard and shoreside, feel empowered.

“They can take risks and make decisions,” Purdy said. “That is a culture change for us. It’s evolved to where we can handle it and we are very excited about it.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2012-2013

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