The booming expedition cruise ship sector has created more opportunities for shipmanagement companies, due to a combination of the requirement to meet new regulations and the arrival of both new and small operators within this area.
V.Ships Leisure business development director Per Bjornsen told PST “Many new operators and smaller companies are joining this sector and with the new regulations and the challenge of competing with larger cruise companies, we offer an attractive proposition with our experience and scale.”
He explained it was not possible for small companies to make the huge investments required in resources and systems to compete with larger operators. Ship management companies can offer these smaller operators access to these resources and systems, unlocking the economies of scale they need.
V.Ships Leisure provides a range of services to nine ships in the expedition sector, with its latest contract being for Scenic Cruises’ first ocean-going vessel, which is currently under construction at Uljanik Group’s yard in Croatia. Scenic Cruises is a successful river cruise ship operator and, for its expansion into the ocean sector, is employing V.Ships Leisure and its sister company Oceanic Catering to provide technical and hotel services respectively on the new vessel.
Cruise Management International (CMI) is another manager capitalising on the rapidly-growing expedition sector. It manages 14 cruise vessels, most of which are within the expedition cruise segment. CMI and its sister company CMI Leisure, a hotel concessionaire, work closely with SunStone Ships, managing its vessels and, in the future, its newbuilding fleet.
CMI’s president and chief executive Jim Barreiro de León started his position in May 2017 and told Passenger Ship Technology about his ambitions for the company.
“For me, personally, we really want to go to the next level and focus on building upon the already established infrastructure of CMI so that we can take on more vessels, enhance our service offering and address the many challenges our industry faces.”
The company claims to be the leading shipmanagement company within the small ship cruise ship sector, but Mr Barreiro de León told PST that its sights were aimed toward multi-segment growth, as it also currently has two small luxury cruise vessels and two larger vessels under management.
These include Grand Celebration and Gemini. It also has several other prospects in the pipeline, which CMI will start managing this year.
While CMI does not want to be recognised as purely providing services to the expedition sector, it acknowledged that this is the fastest-growing market segment and offers many opportunities. Mr Barreiro de León explained that many operators only own one or two ships and could therefore benefit from using the focused expertise of a group like CMI.
CMI is an authority in expedition cruising, the Polar Code and has the economies of scale to get beneficial rates, such as insurance premiums with “preferred conditions”, he said. Another benefit he suggested for expedition cruise operators using shipmanagement companies is that they can provide crew with experience of operating within remote Polar regions and who are familiar with all the regulatory requirements.
“As more expedition vessels are built, the need for ice-experience crew and engineers is becoming more of an issue and we provide support at that level. It is also challenging for some operators to keep up with regulations,” he said.
A main part of building up its infrastructure has involved adopting the shipmanagement software, Infoship. This will integrate all of CMI’s services and its roll-out began at the start of this year. “It will make things more streamlined within ship-to-shore operations and allow our staff to manage services remotely and more efficiently including using apps” Mr Barreiro de León said.
V.Ships Leisure is also focusing on its vessel management software ShipSure and has made a “significant investment” to develop an updated mobile version. The first new module is being rolled out in Q1 this year. V.Ships Leisure business development manager Alexander Iley described the updated version as “bringing the system into the 21st century” with an enhanced user interface and mobile optimisation, enabling access to operational data anytime, anywhere in the world.
Seafarers will also see the benefits of the upgraded ShipSure. It provides them with all their joining information, such as certificates, training courses and travel details. “The new ShipSure delivers even more transparency for our customers,” added Mr Bjornsen.
CMI has also implemented changes, such as creating ‘Centres of Expertise’ (CoE) within the organisation. The CoE structure will focus on specialisation in the respective areas of technical management for:
• Deck, engine and hotel management.
• Port itinerary and logistics planning.
• Safety and quality management.
• Recruitment and training.
• Procurement and logistics.
• Risk management.
• Vessel finance management.
Mr Barreiro de León said that the CoEs’ objectives were to focus on efficiencies and improvements in safety, quality management and customer service through clearly defined areas of responsibilities and expertise, while growing profitability.
“Cruise shipmanagement is competitive,” he said. “Anyone getting into this business must be prepared to take on the many challenging aspects of the shipmanagement industry. We offer clients a “one-stop shop”; from technical management through our 30-man technical team within CMI Ship Management, to hotel catering management through our expert culinary team at CMI Leisure and the actual vessels through our highly engaged and committed tonnage provide SunStone Ships.”
Snapshot CV Jim Barreiro de León
President and chief executive Jim Barreiro de León joined CMI on 1 May 2017 and describes himself as a “hands-on, yet pragmatic leader”.
He began his career in the maritime industry in 1986. After several years working onboard ships, in 1995 he took a position with V.Group as managing director for its V.Ships Leisure division. Mr Barreiro de León dedicated 21 years to V.Ships, managing its passenger fleet with overall responsibility for the technical, marine and hotel operations, focusing on cruise, ferry, expedition and river cruising segments.