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JAW-DROPPER FROM RCI…IT WILL
BE THE WORLD’S LARGEST!
Just LOOK at what has become of the contemporary cruise liner. A towering superstructure with all kinds of bits
and pieces jutting out for’ard, mid-ships and aft. It’s a stupendous achievement and America’s Royal
Caribbean International is leading the pack by far with its astonishing cruise ship innovations. Coming into
the market in April 2016 is RCI’s latest behemoth 16-deck vessel, to be called HARMONY OF THE SEAS.
It’ll be yet another of the new ‘mini-cities’ gracing the oceans and sending cruise passenger numbers soaring
skyward. For South Africans eager to get a taste of that latest-up-to-datest in sea travel we have to go
international, unfortunately, but it all looks very worthwhile and this correspondent hopes to catch a ride on one
of these ocean giants before his appointment with the Grim Reaper.
The Royal Caribbean International behemoths just keep on coming. The American operator’s new
Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas, is set to launch in April, 2016. The ship will span 16
decks, carry 5,479 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,747 staterooms. It’s jaw-dropping stuff.
Fresh details for what will be the largest cruise ship in the world, tipping the scales at a colossal 227,000 gross
tonnes (1,718 more than the current record-holder) have been unveiled by Royal Caribbean
International, a brand founded in Norway and based in Miami, Florida. It controls close to 20 percent of the
world cruise market…operating with sister brands Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Cruises, Pullmantur Cruises
and CDF Croisières de France.
The Harmony will join RCI’s Oasis-class ALLURE OF THE SEAS and OASIS OF THE SEAS, which
currently share the title of world's largest cruise ships, each weighing in at an impressive 225,282-gt.
Harmony of the Seas will cost $US1.35 billion and it’ll feature three multi-storey waterslides, robot
bartenders (as can be found on its latest ships, QUANTUM and ANTHEM OF THE SEAS) and a
‘handcrafted’ carousel. Culinary venues will include two new ‘concepts’ - Izumi Hibachi & Sushi and the
Sabor Modern Mexican – and a branch of Starbucks. It will also have the fastest internet
connection at sea. And So Very Much More!
And if that amount of inclusion doesn’t grab your interest, do consider that, like the two other ships in its class,
Harmony of the Seas will be divided into seven ‘neighbourhoods’…Central Park, the Royal
Promenade, Boardwalk, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality (spa and fitness), Entertainment
Place and Youth Zone. It’s also expected to share other features common to its sister ships, such as
a surfing simulator and a zip line. Can you believe it?
A view aft, with wraparound balconied staterooms, an open-air theatre and endless meal options and places top
sip colourful Caribbean cocktails. No wonder so many people are succumbing to the lure of sea cruising…a sector
of the travel industry that is unstoppably soaring in popularity.
Royal Caribbean also has two other ships coming into service. The Quantum-class ANTHEM OF
THE SEAS (featured in Ports & Ships recently) debuts in Southampton this coming April and OVATION OF
THE SEAS will begin cruising in April next year…an achievement that can only be described as astonishing. The
three new vessels will increase the size of the company's fleet to 25…imagine having 25 cruise liners in your
fleet? The majority of its ships are based in Florida, but Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas will both be
based in Southampton in the UK next northern summer. These vessels will boast and an observation capsule
modelled on the London Eye.
And the word is that future RCI offerings could be called APEX OF THE SEAS, EMBLEM OF THE SEAS or JOY OF
THE SEAS. How about ISLAND OF THE SEAS?
The contemporary cruise liner, as we ardent ship lovers have discovered, is an astounding maritime achievement.
Those among us who have this awareness, are simply knocked out by the size, scale and facilities that match any
mini-city, never mind a floating resort. And, it’s all happened so quickly? When the passenger ship hit the
100,000-gt mark we all went ‘wow’, didn’t we?…and here people are, swanning the world in 225,000-ton giants.
About 20 years ago this correspondent was despatched with a travel group on an el freebie trip to Miami
to experience the ‘giant’ new MAJESTY OF THE SEAS…then weighing in at a ‘mighty’ 75,000 tonnes. We were all
totally impressed, because passenger ships up until then were mostly in the 20-30,000-gt bracket. At that time,
as enamoured of the ship as I was, I could never have imagined a vessel almost four times the size. I
cruised the Majesty on the Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and Cayman Islands route and I thought it was just the
ticket. The balcony cabin was an unheard-of facility, because ship design had still not graduated beyond the
historic porthole. Who could have imagined what would become of it all? I do recall having enjoyed the Viking
Crown Lounge (you can see it high up aft in the picture) which was a top-of-the-ship lounge offering
sweeping panoramic views. Every Royal Caribbean ship still includes this entirely appealing feature.
We really must hand it to Royal Caribbean…it’s the one line that’s taken the big risks by growing its
vessels in quantum (pardon the pun) leaps, and coming into the market with ships that do actually take
one’s breath away. And, rest assured, the passengers are flocking on to these humongous vessels, all utterly
eager to experience all the high-tech excitement and round-the-clock attractions and distractions that have
contributed to making cruising by far the world’s fastest-growing travel sector.
Facilities such as a Flowrider are simply de rigueur on the RCI giants, and the great variety of
attractions and theatre entertainment has caught the imagination of seekers of holidays…and those who have had
one taste of this extraordinary experience (given that mass cruising is not for everybody) are turning into
repeaters, doing so more than twice a year.
In a remarkably short space of time, the contemporary cruise liner has gone to heights that would have been
considered unimaginable even five years ago. Indeed, what will happen in the next five years makes for
extremely exciting speculation?
Is the day coming – and I believe it is - that a cruise ship or trans-Atlantic liner will come off the yards at around
500,000-gt? A new Cunarder perhaps? It’s as possible as sunrise tomorrow. Would not the Carnival
Corporation-owned Cunard Line be tempted to add such an ultimate ocean-going monster to its
fleet? I’d be very happy to cross ‘The Pond’ on one of those before I finally pop my clogs, thank you very
Cruise operators are getting bolder by the day, mercilessly copying each other’s ideas and all striving for that
added ‘oomph’ that will create those necessary ‘unique’ features needed to sustain market share in a heavily
over-traded market. Heaven knows, it took them all long enough to latch on to the addition of ‘private’
balconies…singularly the most notable and successful cruise ship innovation in the last 100 years.
With all due respect to MSC Cruises, the vessels it sends to South African waters (MSC OPERA and MSC
SINFONIA) are so ‘yesterday’ by comparison with what is available in Caribbean, Baltic and Mediterranean waters
these days. Which is not to say that MSC Cruises isn’t in the running with splendid mega-liner offerings,
but one should really just accept that Royal Caribbean is leading the pack with its endless ‘wow’ factors
on so many new vessels.
Let’s face it, even the giant Carnival Corporation (with its eight subsidiaries) can’t hold a candle to
RCI when it comes to ‘bigger, better, bolder and brasher’. The behemoth Oasis- and
Quantum-class vessels are the specific ships stop the travelling public in its tracks…and when pax arrive
aboard and are greeted by all the surprises then the ‘wows’ and ‘OMG’s really start flying thick and fast.
MSC OPERA (berthed at Durban’s N Shed) was my most recent cruise experience (from Durban for 7
nights, as a guest of MSC Cruises) and I really enjoyed the vessel and its offerings. But it’s the big ‘newbies’
that are now playing havoc with my imagination, because I read a lot about cruise ships and cruising and I am
now morphing beyond the point of mere salivation. The latest vessels are at an entirely higher level of scale and
sophistication. It’s difficult to absorb what has transpired in 10 years even.
Over a span of several decades I have been fortunate to experience a number of splendid ocean liners and cruise
ships…including BRAEMAR CASTLE, SA VAAL, MARCO POLO, MONTEREY (my picture, taken at the
same, then rather awful, N Shed in Durban in 2001) and MELODY, CROWN ODYSSEY, NORWEGIAN CROWN
(both the same ship, now called BALMORAL), SUPERSTAR GEMINI, SUPERSTAR LEO, SUPERSTAR VIRGO,
QUEEN ELIZABETH 2, ROTTERDAM VI and MSC OPERA. Yet, can you blame me for having an overwhelming desire
to enjoy a personal encounter with the new breed of cruise liner?…to observe the passenger flow, partake of the
multiple dining choices and to indulge the plethora of facilities and entertainment…and to be sucked into the size,
the shape, dimensions and complexities of any vessel exceeding 150,000 gross tonnes. Just
compareMonterey above with all that has transpired in maritime technology since 2001? The mind
boggles, does it not? The steam-boiler-driven Monterey was a delicious classic liner, as I discovered on a
Mozambique Channel foray as a guest of Allan Foggitt, then of Starlight Cruises. She was then
52 years old.
Oh, for a ride on a contemporary ocean giant. We can dream, can’t we?
Vernon Buxton for Ports & Ships
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INDIA COUNTERs CHINESE
INFLUENCE AMONG INDIAN OCEAN ISLANDS
India intends offering Indian Ocean Island nations a range of military and civilian assistance in an effort to
counter growing Chinese influence in what it considers to be its own backyard.
This week the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi is visiting Sri Lanka where the Chinese Navy has recently
made several visits. This is the first time in 28 years that an Indian leader has visited its close neighbour.
India will also be making offers and pledges to the Maldives, Mauritius (where India has made strong inroads in
its relationship with the island nation) and the Seychelles. Until now India has largely ignored these island
countries but is clearly alarmed by the growing Chinese influence which has begun to have military undertones as
well, with the Chinese Navy deploying ships including submarines into the Indian Ocean for the first time.
From a non-military perspective, China has built seaports, power plants and roads across several of the island
countries. As with China extending its influence in Africa, it asks no political or social questions while pursuing its
Recently India built a patrol ship for Mauritius and has held naval exercises with that island’s small coast guard
service. “India has a role as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region,” explained a defence official ahead
of Prime Minister Modi’s trip which begins today (10 March). “We are providing patrol ships, surveillance radars
and ocean mapping for the island states. We are assisting Mauritius with its coast guard,” he said.
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SHIPPING IN THE INDIAN OCEAN
IS STILL AT RISK
Underestimating the security risk in the Indian Ocean could put ships in great danger once again, says maritime
security company MAST Ltd.
Gerry Northwood, COO of MAST, recently made an observation on current circumstances: “Whilst recent reports
and incidents seem to be pointing to the Far East as the next piracy hotspot, the real security risk to shipping
remains within the Indian Ocean, which is being ‘under-hyped’ by some commentators. It is clear that the level
of maritime crime in the Far East is high, however in most cases it is simply petty theft and should be deterred if
passive protection measures such as Best Management Practices 4 (BMP4) are in place. The situation in Somalia
is far more complicated. Piracy in the region has been effectively suppressed, but not completely eradicated and
pirates could strike again if shipping companies relax their guard.”
The Indian Ocean still presents a series of security challenges, including a lack of intelligence sharing between
countries carrying out counter-piracy operations in the region, as recently stated by Commodore Keith Blount at
the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi. He added that if these challenges were
overcome, it would help increase the situational awareness and understanding of the region, enhancing the
world’s navies’ ability to conduct anti-piracy operations.
More to the point, after two decades of civil war, Somalia remains a lawless and politically fragmented country.
The persistent attacks by Al Qaeda-affiliated group, Al Shabaab, against police and government authorities not
only present a security challenge of its own but have also complicated the rebuild process of a fragile state, even
with the help of the international community. As a consequence, the conditions within Somalia remain permissive
for pirate activity to flourish.
Northwood added: “Armed security teams, BMP4 and military patrols have been, and still are, an effective
deterrent in the region, protecting vessels from attack by Somali pirates. However, the recent Al Shabaab bomb
attacks in Mogadishu highlight the fragility of the security situation in the Indian Ocean. The lack of law and order
ashore in Somalia means that the pirate breeding grounds are still intact. If the shipping industry becomes
complacent, it will only be a matter of time before a ship is hijacked again by Somali pirates, and innocent crews
lives put at risk.”
MAST or (Maritime Asset Security & Training) Ltd., with offices in the People’s Republic of China, Malta, Nigeria,
Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka, UK and the USA, is a leading global security provider with the expertise and
capability to deliver comprehensive advice and technology.
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WHARF TALK: DURBAN’s DIG OUT
Durban Dig out Port, First Phase. Diagram courtesy TNPA
By Terry Hutson
Transnet has confirmed reports that the proposed Durban Dig Out Port (DDOP) has been delayed, with a planned
start only in 2021 and the completion of the first phase in 2025.
The reason for the delay is given as being a result of the prevailing economy although there are probably social as
well as technical reasons for the hold up.
When the DDOP was first proposed it was assumed that at an average growth rate of around 8 percent (or more)
the existing container terminals at the Port of Durban would have run out of capacity by around 2020, just as the
first phase of the DDOP was coming into commission.
Since then however things haven’t gone exactly according to script. The economy hasn’t grown and nor has the
number of containers being handled at the Durban port. Here are the figures for containers handled at the Port of
Durban in the past 10 years (in TEUs or twenty foot container equivalents).
Containers handled at DCT for past 10 years