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Norwegian yards eye lucrative expedition cruise market, Ulstein offers X-bow designs

Shipbuilders in Norway are eyeing the lucrative expedition cruise market, which has produced orders for eight vessels to the country’s shipbuilders so far this year.

Kleven Maritime group has orders for two expedition cruise vessels from Hurtigruten, a domestic company, while Vard has a contract to build two such vessels to Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten, which is part of the TUI AG group, and a further four to Ponant, the French expedition cruise ship operator.

Holger Dilling, SVP of Investor Relations and Business Development at the Alesund based Vard group said in a presentation that he expects two more expedition cruise ships to be ordered from the group’s yards before the end of the year.

Fincantieri is the biggest shareholder in Vard with a stake of 55.6% and the Norwegian company benefits from technology transfer in the passenger ship sector from the Italian company, which is the world’s biggest builder of cruise liners.

The company has produced a portfolio of concept designs of its own as a result of a new strategy introduced at the turn of the year. Until then, Vard had focused on the construction of offshore services vessels, but a sharp fall in the price of oil that led to a virtual stop in orders in tis area forced the company to look for a new direction.

The Ulstein Group has also introduced its own portfolio of expedition cruise ship designs called Ulstein Discovery, said Oyvind Gjerde Kamsvag chief designer at the shipyard, which is located on the west coast of the country.

These range in size from 100 to 165 metres in length and include options for fitting out to various levels of standard, depending on the prospective owner’s preferences and positioning on the market.

The designs also feature X-bow and X-stern, both innovations of Kamsvag, which have been used in offshore services vessels and which have shown to produce superior sea keeping qualities compared to traditional designs. A viewing platform can be build on both sides of the hull of an X-bow vessel to bring passengers closer to the sea level and offer better views, he pointed out.

Kamsvag said that the R&D work at Ulstein also looks at various aspects of the operations of expedition cruise tonnage, such as embarkation and disembarkation of passengers to Zodiacs. This is presently a time consuming and not always an easy part of the operations, yet Zodiac excursions are an elementary part of the expedition cruise product.

You can read more about the developments in the expedition cruise ship segment in the Winter 2016 issue of Cruise Business Review magazine, to be published in November.