Performancing Metrics


Captain Frank Suma

6 Oct 2017| 8:51 (GMT+1)



The cruise industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the mass tourism market, with 24 million passengers sailing in 2016, compared to just 1.4 million in 1980. And a growing number of these passengers are choosing to sail on gigantic mega-ships that can dwarf the local surroundings and turn small islands and historic city centres into a nightmare for local residents.

Jamming that many passengers into a small island or historic city centre can tax the local infrastructure in its own right, but imagine the impact when four or five of these mega-ships descend on a single port at the same time. And things can get even worse when all these cruise ship passengers are combined with thousands of other tourists who arrive by plane, train or bus.

Let’s consider the plight of Venice where mammoth cruise ships tower over the historic city and decamp thousands of passengers onto its narrow streets and bridges on a daily basis from May to September. In 1988 the physical capacity of the historic centre of Venice was 20,000 visitors daily. The average daily flow now is 80,000 – more at the height of summer.The impact from this many tourists has become so negative that in an unofficial referendum earlier this year, Venetians voted overwhelmingly to ban cruise ships from the historic city centre. While the result had no legal impact, an official referendum schedule for October will let residents of the city centre vote for self-rule – which could result in restrictions on tourists.The anti-tourism backlash has spread to other parts of Europe with protestors venting their frustration this year at cruise ships and city-breakers in historic cities like Dubrovnik and Barcelona. Locals are simply fed up with tourists – some of them inconsiderate – piling into historic sections of their cities in numbers too big for the infrastructure to handle.Then there’s the question of air pollution. Southampton, which is Europe’s busiest cruise terminal, is one of nine UK cities that breach air quality guidelines even though it has very small manufacturing sector. In a recent article about the issue, representative of a local citizens’ group as saying: “Up to five large liners a day can be berthed in the docks at the same time, all running engines 24/7. Pollution from the port is leading to asthma and chest diseases. We are now seeing more, bigger liners but also very large bulk cargo ships.”

To be fair to the cruise industry, passenger ships still come in all shapes and sizes, including large ones that carry fewer than 2,500 passengers, medium-sized ones that carry fewer than 1,500 passengers, and small ones that carry fewer than 750 passengers. However, the smallest ships tend to have much higher fares than the big, mass-market cruise lines, and the cruise industry is building more mega-ships than small ships.

Furthermore, the newest mega-ships are being equipped with more efficient engines and pollution abatement technologies that make them more environmentally friendly.

In addition, mega-ships offer more choice when it comes to public facilities like bars, shops, casinos, restaurants, and health spas. They also have more recreational options like climbing walls, water slides, go-cart tracks, wave pools, skating rinks, bowling alleys as well as extensive entertainment choices that include major production shows and big-name performers. So if you’re going to be at sea for long stretches of time, or are the kind of person who gets bored easily, you’ll have a lot more options to do things on a mega-ship.And while mega-ships can dominate smaller cities and towns, they can fit very nicely into larger ports of call, and look at very much at home on the high seas.

So at the end of the day, perhaps the issue with mega-ships is not that they are too big, but that they are too big for some of the places they are visiting.

So what we have so far is a vessel that, although it must have passed some kind of inclination test, doesn't exactly fill one with confidence regarding its seaworthiness. Enter the stabilisersWith a vessel of such air draft comes one thing, windage, lots and lots of windage. And the only thing combating that windage, preventing the ship heeling at an alarming rate, is the forward motion of the vessel and the deployment of the aforementioned monster sized stabiliser.
She too will be fitted with similar stabilisers, and you can bet the farm it's doing all it can to try and pull the ship back on an even keel. As will the port side stabiliser; it will be set to try and fly, whilst starboard side is trying to reach the sea floor. That is why they are so huge, they need to be effective as soon as the ship lets go and gets underway at low speed.So basically what we have, is a ship that is inherently unstable that has to rely on oversized stabilisers to make a passage.As long as they don't go wrong, and as long as the ship doesn't break down. And don't forget, a ship that is dead in the water will invariably lay across the wind, side on if you will, presenting her windage to whatever is blowing at the time.Perhaps safety standards will be modified and the "block of flats on a barge" style of naval architecture will have to revert to a more "seagoing" style of ship. One thing for certain, there will be repercussions from this. Had the ship had this sudden loss of stability in deep water, I fear the results would have been much more terrible.

but let's talks also about cargo sector:

It is only natural that cruise ship disasters dominate the headlines, particularly when such a tragic loss of life is involved, but such incidents are not the only potential casualties that the maritime industry has to worry about.According to the world shipping council about $4trn worth of goods is transported on the world’s oceans every year. This cargo is shipped by vessels such as container ships and tankers that are ever-increasing in terms of size, as shipowners strive to reduce operating and shipping costs through greater economies of scale. An example of this is the introduction last year of the Maersk Triple E generation cargo ships – the Triple E refers to Economy of scale, Energy efficiency and Environmentally-improved – which are the largest container vessels in the world, measuring 400 meters in length and carrying more than 18,000 teu (twenty foot equivalent unit). Four hundred meters in length is equivalent to the combined size of two basketball fields, two football fields and two ice hockey rinks.

Such vessels are so large that they exceed the capacity of the Panama Canal and the depth of many ports. For example, there are no ports in either North or South America which can handle the deeper drafts or they exceed the capacity of some of the traditional container cranes.And should one of these supersized container vessels be unlucky enough to be involved in a significant incident at sea 

The ever-increasing size of ships, containers and cruise ships, means that costs for any salvage operation increase exponentially due to the need for different, sometimes more customized equipment, more specialized personnel and expertise, as well as heightened environmental requirements.

Escalating costs around salvaging and wreck removal have an effect on rates and deductibles for both hull and cargo insurance.“Depending on the specific circumstances of the situation, salvage might require unprecedented efforts and complex operations – in some cases it may take many months, or possibly a year or longer, to remove all the containers from such vessels, particularly if the accident were to happen in a remote location, where all salvage operations are only able to operate seasonally.”

An example of this would be the container ship, Rena which grounded off the coast of New Zealand in 2011.But how should the maritime industry deal with the increasing risks and costs of salvage operationsAn example for such an industry-wide initiative is the Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) in the US, a not-for profit operation that works on behalf of the petroleum, transportation and energy industries.MSRC was formed in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 to offer oil spill response services and mitigate damage to the environment. If the industry comes together in a similar vein for salvage operations this will enable the right kind of equipment to be more readily available in strategic locations, as well being much more cost-effective. it’s crucial for us to keep maritime salvage requirements in mind.

Mega ships have become an extra large sized hassle for the shipping industry for a number of reasons. Barring the fact that most ports don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate them, the demand is too low to utilize them, and there are too many of them to make them worthwhile at this point, the next consideration is what to do should one sink. While cargo ships are usually big enough to handle whatever the waves dish out, they are far from unsinkable. The problem is, that when the size of the ship goes up, as does the hassle that comes with one going down. 


Having a container ship capsize is nothing shy of a catastrophe, not only for the carrier employing the ship, but for the shipper whose stock is being ferried about. The amount of time and money it takes to resuscitate the cargo from a downed container ship can have a huge impact on both supply chains as well as company bottom lines.

 Perhaps an even larger problem is the amount of companies that can be impacted by a single ship. Carriers using mega ships have to take on a number of different clients in order to utilize the overabundance of capacity. While logically speaking, this makes perfect sense. The problem is that many shippers aren’t aware that their goods and containers are making their way aboard these mega ships. The problem created by this is two-fold. Firstly, for the amount of time it takes for a mega ship to be filled to sufficient capacity in order to make way takes a considerable amount of time. This time can cause holdups and delays for various supply chains. The other side of this problem is the value accumulated by carriers when loading their ships. Given the sheer number of clients any one mega ship can be taking on at one time, it becomes very difficult for a carrier to accurately assess the value on hand. Should something happen to the ship and, more importantly, the cargo on board, a carrier might find themselves above their open cargo policy limits when it comes to the insurability of the ship.


When There’s No Port in the Storm


Insurability aside, other issues with mega ships are the fact that there are very few ports that have the ability to tend to a ship in trouble. Most ports lack the necessary water, tugs, cranes, yard facilities, and emergency response protocols to handle a mega ship. What’s worse, is that a container ship might also be denied access to a port if there are hazardous materials on board. If a ship, bearing standard cargo is in trouble the delay to the supply chain could be weeks. If that same ship has hazardous cargo on board, it is very possible that the delay can be extended even further, until the ship is towed to a port that is willing to handle it. A few weeks delay in the supply chain can devastate a business, let alone delay lasting a month or longer.


Aside from the lower cost to ship containers due to capacity and energy efficiency, it’s becoming harder to see the supposed benefit to the mega ships. Yet, even with all of these issues, especially for the fact that the demand just simply isn’t there to support them, let alone the infrastructure, more and more of these extra large vessels are scheduled to hit the waters within the next few years.


This might serve as a warning for shippers, and the reason why supply chain transparency is so very important. If your supply chain is being fed by the use of the mega ships, what do you do if something should happen to the ship? Does your supply chain have a built in contingency plan? How long will it take you to recover from a month long delay, or longer? These are important questions to ask yourself when it comes to making decisions as to what carrier service to use. 

Another big issue as stated in the previous blogs is the hiring of more cheaper and unsuitable work force due to the reason in fill in the crew lists and put in serious risks the safety of the life and vessel itself, how it would be improved this problem?? Solutions are on table must be open a discussion on it!!!

So why not discuss about it and found solution on how we can improve this sector and build togheter a better future???

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  • Dear Captain, i'm agree with your post. i work in the cruise industry since 1997 and during these years the cruise industry have lost the real idea of cruise, of fun, of discovering, of sea and sky....for some floating little town where, if you do not look at...outside, you never will note to be in a ship. Cruise is adventure and this is the reason because the expedition cruises, little luxury cruises have , now, a great success. who love the cruise life wants to dream ...looking at the sea and the sky, and to feel to be in a exclusive world, not in a town. More, enormous ships....if the china market told that for the next year will be a reduction of 13% as number of pax for the do you want to book 5000 pax per week? it is time to change mind and to discover the real cruise philosophy, to satisfied guest and to make...revenue. Luciano Barbuti