Fuel efficiency and floating on air

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightIt’s funny how visions of the future can be both wrong and right.

I had that thought after viewing a museum exhibit of designs by modernist Norman Bel Geddes, including one for a cruise ship.

Bel Geddes’ big idea was streamlining and in the 1930s, he turned out everything from vacuum cleaners to passenger buses with that teardrop profile meant to increase speed. His cruise liner — with room for 2,600 passengers — is a thing of beauty, although it looks as much like a submarine as a surface ship. The exhibit included side views showing how wind eddies swirled around the superstructure of the conventional ships of the time.*TomStieghorst

Today, however, it isn’t wind resistance that is the focus of cruise industry streamlining, but water resistance. And the object is no longer to be the fastest across the Atlantic, but to cut fuel costs.

That accounts for the bulbous projection at the bow of every cruise ship, an innovation that pushes water quietly aside and improves efficiency. Cruise ships in recent years have been slathered in silicon compounds or other coatings to make them shed marine slime and slip through the water more easily.

The newest streamlining idea is set to debut on the Quantum of the Seas, the first full test of an air lubrication system that uses microbubbles to provide a cushion for the ship to ride on.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) has tested the system in a small way on the Celebrity Reflection, but installed a full system on the Quantum as part of the ship’s technology emphasis.

The idea is to form and inject tiny air bubbles below the hull that reduce drag as the ship plows forward. Ironically for Bel Geddes, air is the instrument to provide extra cruise ship streamlining.

Other firms have tried this before, but Royal Caribbean has developed its own method of making the bubbles so that they’re small enough to be effective. It involves first heating the bubbles to shrink them, and then cooling them to prevent them from turning to steam as they hit seawater.

“We’re not only riding on air, we’re riding on air-conditioned air,” quipped RCCL Chairman Richard Fain, on a recent tour of Quantum in Germany.

The system — which only works when a ship is traveling at speed — could knock 7% to 9% off of propulsion costs, even taking into account the energy needed for heating and cooling, Fain said.

£2.4bn poured into Britain’s coffers last year

Cruise news

: £2.4bn poured into Britain’s coffers last year with more than 1m passengers getting on boardIndustry’s

contribution to country’s economy highlighted at Barcelona convention

Ship shape: the port at Southampton welcomes a cruise liner

The cruise industry contributed £2.4billion to Britain’s economy last year, with passengers spending an average of £80 a day each during visits to UK ports such as Southampton and Dover

Latest figures compiled by CruiseBritain show that in 2013 there was a 10% year-on-year increase in cruise embarkations, to 1.04 million, and a 20% increase in day visits, to 866,000. The spend includes crew expenditure, cruise line purchases, ship repair, and employee salaries.

“Cruise tourism is a valuable source of income to ports and destinations across Britain and is increasingly being factored into local and regional tourism,” said Daren Taylor, chair of CruiseBritain, speaking at the Seatrade Med convention in Barcelona.

In the Mediterranean, while other tourism sectors have seen no increase in performance, cruising has grown in volume by 43% since the global recession struck in 2008.

Across the region, there were 27 million passenger movements: 19 million in the Western Med, five million in the Adriatic, and – reduced by concerns over violence in the Middle East – three million in the Eastern Med.

Referring to the fact that most cruise calls to ports in Ukraine have been cancelled this summer, David Dingle, chairman of Carnival UK, said political conflict in the Black Sea area dates back centuries. “They are a fact if life we just live with,” he said.

A proposal to provide an alternative to dredging a new channel for cruise ships visiting Venice was submitted to the Italian government this week.

Lagoon show: a cruise ship sails past St Mark’s Square in Venice

A £101million floating jetty, capable of handling up to five ships at a time, would be set up in the sea near Bocca di Lido, and passengers would be transported into the city’s cruise terminal by a large, environmentally-friendly catamaran.

Carnival’s David Dingle still believes the deep channel proposal to be the preferred option, and told Seatrade Med: “What we want is certainty, but we want to do the right thing by all the stakeholders in this debate.”

Costa Concordia almost Ready for Final Voyage

File Costa Concordia
Costa Concordia


The massive hulk of the Costa Concordia is nearly ready to be towed away from the Italian island where it struck a rock and capsized two-and-a-half years ago, killing 32 people, officials said on Sunday.

The rusting prow of the once-gleaming white luxury liner was due to emerge fully from the water for the first time on Sunday, and the ship should be ready to tow on Monday, but the departure has been pushed back a day due to forecasts of rough seas.

The 114,500-tonne Concordia has been slowly lifted from the sea floor since Monday, when salvagers began pumping air into 30 large metal boxes, or sponsons, attached around the hull.

The air has forced water out of the sponsons, lifting the cruise liner 7.5 metres off the undersea platform where it had been resting, Franco Porcellacchia, the engineer in charge of the salvage, said. There are 6.3 metres to go, he added.

A convoy of 14 vessels, led by the tug boat Blizzard, will then tow the Concordia to a port near Genoa, where it will be broken up for scrap, completing one of the biggest maritime salvage operations in history.

The president of the French Concordia survivors group Anne Decre, who is on the island of Giglio, told Reuters on Sunday that the departure of the ship will be an important symbolic moment for those who were aboard the night of the shipwreck.

“It gives us the opportunity to try and collect ourselves and move forward,” she said, adding that the liner will take the same route to Genoa it should have taken more than two years ago to complete its ill-fated cruise.

“We hope that we will also be able to return to our route.”

The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck as he sailed too close to shore to “salute” the port, and abandoning ship. He is fighting the charges.

Paying for the disaster, including breaking up the vessel and repairing the damage to Giglio, is likely to cost the ship’s owner and operatorCosta Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corp , more than 1.5 billion euros ($20.30 billion), the company’s chief executive has said.

The cruise liner will be demolished and scrapped in a port near Genoaby a consortium including oil services company Saipem and Genoa-based companies Mariotti and San Giorgio. ($1 = 0.7391 Euros)