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As a world-leading provider of ship management solutions, Wilhelmsen Ship Management knows every-thing there is to know about keeping vessels ship-shape – even in the demanding cruise ship segment.

With its global presence, Wilhelmsen Ship Management (WSM) covers all the lifecycle needs a ship owner may have – from building a new vessel, all the way to recycling it in the most environmentally sound way at the end of its service life. It also carries out service and maintenance, installs and manages engines and other equipment, and recruits and manages crewmembers.

WSM is responsible for the full technical management of some 160 ships, and also manages the crewing needs of a further 240 vessels, bringing the total number of ships in its charge to around 400.

Pål Berg Lande is Wilhelmsen Ship Management’s fleet manager for the cruise ship segment, based out of the Oslo office. He explains that, while all vessels consist largely of the same parts and equipment, the solutions they require may vary a great deal from one type of ship to the next.

“You might think a ship is a ship, but there are some key aspects of cruise ships that make them very different to cargo vessels,” he says.

HIGHER LEVEL OF SAFETY AND SECURITY
The most crucial distinction is that cruise ships are full of hundreds – or even thousands – of guests who can often be extremely demanding. This means that any disruptions, from delays in itineraries to malfunctioning equipment, are simply unacceptable. Whereas most cargo ships require some 25 crewmembers, the cruise ships managed by WSM typically have around 70 maritime crew and an additional 400 staff working in the restaurants, shops and accommodation areas.

“When you have guests on board, different equipment is needed; from swimming pools and spas, to laundry services and a large galley. So, while the work itself may not differ that much, there’s a lot more of it,” adds Pål.

A ship full of people also requires a higher level of safety and security. Pål explains that sanitation and public health need to be strictly controlled, as a disease outbreak on a ship with 1,500 people on board would be unthinkable. Meanwhile, people coming on and off the vessel are subject to airport-like security, with metal detecting archways and x-ray machines for luggage and carry-on items.

“You might think a ship is a ship, but there are some key aspects of cruise ships that make them very different to cargo vessels.”

Even with all these measures in place, it is not always possible to predict the behaviour of the guests themselves: “There was one adventurous passenger who jumped off a ship to go for a swim whilst inside one of the locks in the Panama Canal,” Pål recalls. “Fortunately, he swam to the back of the ship and got back on board and nobody was injured.”

Having already managed the World of Residensea, a private residential “community-at-sea” vessel for many years, WSM entered the traditional cruise ship segment three years ago when it signed Paul Gauguin Cruises as a customer. The company has one ship, The Gauguin, which offers up to 332 guests a five-star experience sailing around the South Pacific.

“WE INTEND TO KEEP EXPANDING”
Since then, WSM has added a further two vessels to its cruise ship portfolio – Viking Star and Viking Sea. Owned by Viking Ocean Cruises, which will be expanding its fleet with two more vessels before the end of 2017, each of these state-of-the-art ocean ships offers the 930 guests on board a luxurious environment characterised by understated elegance and modern Scandinavian design.

Whilst most shipping segments have been through tough times in recent years, the cruise segment has been largely unaffected and is continuing to grow.

This is good news for Pål and his team of five people, which currently includes three vessel managers and two support staff.

“Shipyards building new cruise ships remain fully booked with long backlogs, so it’s clear that the segment is doing very well. We intend to keep expanding as the market continues to grow,” he concludes.