“The biggest thing has been the ability to react quickly and flexibly,” said Julian Hughes, technical director at V.Ships Leisure, which oversees managing a large fleet of cruise ships for various clients.
“We have models to optimize crewing, but keeping the ships safe with minimum manning, reducing the cost for owners, while maintaining the value of the asset,” said Hughes, “there was no checklist for laying up.”
V.Ships thus provided its clients with scenario planning – lay up and return-to-service costs.
“If some ships were getting sold or scrapped, the recommendation would be a cold lay up. With new tonnage coming in, however, that is an asset worth hundreds of millions and it needed to be protected.”
Hughes and his team have found optimal lay up locations for their ships, and optimized costs for the berth, crew and fuel.
As the industry now mounts its comeback, it’s about getting crew back, COVID-related changes onboard, and planning for the future.
“It comes down to the people, and one of the key things has been mental health issues,” said Hughes.
New technology like crew apps lets V.Ships stay in touch, send out questionnaires, get feedback and more, he said.
Training has been key to the restart, with crew coming back after up to 18 months off to new policies and procedures.
“We’re able to communicate those and train them prior to coming aboard. They have the awareness and the base knowledge is there,” Hughes said.
Keeping ships in compliance during the pandemic was also a challenge, leading to remote surveys for flag states and class societies.
“They will stick around. You can walk around the ship on video and look at various items and determine if a visit is needed. It’s more efficient and effective,” Hughes said.
COVID changes aboard include more hand sanitization stations, hand washing technology, planning for ICU and isolation areas and HVAC updates, which in some cases have negated prior energy-efficiency moves for air-conditioning.
“We do a detailed analysis for the clients, and make sure their investment gets them the best return in the short term,” Hughes said.
“We’ve gotten closer with our clients. We feel their pain that they’ve been out of service. We’ve worked closely with them to understand where they can make investments, and make sure that the money is being spent wisely.”
“Overall, successful management looks the same as it has,” Hughes said. “Core disciplines, management, safety of crew and guests, compliance and enabling our clients to deliver their products.
“Now there is a complication from COVID, but we are learning to live with it.
“The key assets are everything and that is the people. Crew, guests and office staff.
“Going forward there is a great opportunity to look at the environment, sustainability and go above and beyond.”