Luxury of cruising the world

The fast-growing cruise ship industry is continuously evolving and posing new demands – and ABB’s electric, digital and connected vision has the answers

When shipping comes to mind, the first reference point for the man or woman in the street will often be cruising. Now a mainstream tourist activity, today’s volume cruise sector involves bigger ships and more spectacular attractions than ever before, but separate drivers have also created high-growth, high value niches for innovative smaller ships, bound for remote destinations or commanding exceptional levels of luxury.

Whether the ship is the main attraction or the luxury gateway to adventure, guests nonetheless join their cruise assuming that safety is part of the package; nor will any accept polluting the environment as an acceptable price for cruising pleasure. Reliability, in operations and in ship systems, is reputational for a cruise brand – whether shared by word of mouth or by review.

Based on their lifestyles ashore, cruise guests also increasingly identify connectivity as a need rather than a want, while rising ‘green’ values mean they expect to be shown that their hosts are leaders rather than followers on sustainability.

ABB’s leading position with pioneering technologies in cruise ship power, automation and control has demanded a response to changing needs. Its wider role in developing an electric, digital and connected vision for the marine industry has allowed this response to be measured, layered and global.

A brief look at the flourishing expedition market offers insights into this mature position, where ABB systems have proved the technology of choice from the outset for an emerging generation of Polar Class (PC) ships.

The benefits for maneuverability that brought Azipod® propulsion to the forefront of navigating in ice-covered waters always made it likely that its leading position in the cruise sector would extend to expedition ships. Other Azipod® propulsor features have also proved persuasive: outboard installation cuts vibration and noise on board; gearless construction increases operational sustainability.

Azipod® propulsion was selected for the world’s first discovery yacht Scenic Eclipse, followed by a string of orders including the first polar newbuild for Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, Inc., and the world’s first electric hybrid icebreaker for Ponant.

But Azipod® propulsion is only part of story; for all of these ships ABB is also supplying a comprehensive scope consisting of various integrated elements, such as power, automation, control and management systems. Exemplary is a polar ship preference for the ABB Ability™ System 800xA platform, whose integrated power, automation and control technology enables crew and teams onshore to undertake vessel operations as a joint enterprise.

This integrated approach emphasizes that it is not only guests who benefit from greater cruise ship connectivity. No matter how remote, ships cannot be ‘alone’ in the sense that they are out of the reach of technical support. Today, expedition ships supported by ABB will be among close to 1,000 vessels – including mainstream cruise ships – which are connected to seven ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operation Centers worldwide. From here, ABB experts monitor operational shipboard systems, coordinate remote equipment diagnostics and offer predictive maintenance services – 24/7.

It is a collaborative approach that ABB believes will be pivotal in shipping’s electric, digital and connected future, whether via the predictive maintenance available to the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection “anti-cruise” luxury vessel operating off-the-beaten track, or to support increasingly automated and even remotely-controlled operations in the years ahead.

ABB’s strength in the cruise market also demands a response to one of the permanent paradoxes of successful tourism, resurfacing in the modern cruise industry. Guests seeking to get up close and personal with wildlife and nature are likely to be passionate that the environment is left unspoiled. As the International Maritime Organization also moves towards a complete ban of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters, regulatory pressure is emerging for the ships plying these seas to switch to less polluting fuels or find other power sources.

ABB has a mature position at the forefront of industry in developing a range of low emissions and emissions-free options for shipping’s low carbon future. Vessels are already in service over shorter distances that use battery power solutions from ABB. ABB is also actively involved in collaborative development of the fuel cell technology for marine applications, including research, testing and a pilot installation implementation.

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About the author

Marcus Högblom

Marcus Högblom is responsible for the passenger vessel segment at ABB Marine & Ports.
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