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HANSA 09-2021

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SCHIFFFAHRT | SHIPPING The world cruise fleet in the pandemic Covid 19 has caused heavy financial losses for cruise companies. Nevertheless, the big players are currently reactivating their fleets, while the pandemic left a mark in the orders and deliveries schedules as well as in sales and scrapping figures. By Arnulf Hader This yearly update is published in March in normal years. By March 2021 we could only state that the cruise fleet is in the lock-down for one year and no end is in sight. That was the reason to postpone this update into the summer. Meanwhile the pandemic is still somewhere in the world – more severe than ever in some countries – but normal life is hoped to return in major touristic markets. Progress in vaccination allow to open some destinations for foreign visitors, and the big operators are reactivating major parts of their fleets since June. There is no general restart for all regions and companies. Australia e. g. stays cautious and Cunard Line has further postponed the next trips. Otherwise, river cruises in national waters in Europe had been already allowed for a few months last year until a further lock-down in autumn. Some expedition cruise vessels with their small number of passengers were also able to operate in remote regions, but the majority of the seagoing fleet has been idle since March 2020. Today, there is no real use asking for the development of passenger figures. The results of three months activity in 2020 are very limited, operators can only hope to be able to cruise for six 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 months with reduced guest numbers. But first, the fleets have to be reactivated ship by ship. This is a good time to check the effects of Covid-19 on the fleet development with a focus on company developments, newbuilding orders, newbuilding deliveries, ship sales and ship scrapping. By looking at these topics, one can explain the first stagnation in the fleet development within decades and why the number and capacity of ships will continue to increase in the near future. Operators out of business Ships and Beds 1990 - 2021 The major operators show different reactions to the crisis but will survive the pandemic in spite of heavy financial losses. Some casualties became already apparent during the first lock-down among smaller companies or such with elder fleets or business models without alternative earnings. • In July 2020, Finnish Birka Cruises announced to stop operating the only ship »Birka Stockholm« permanently. The fate of the ship is yet to be decided. In similar moves, the cruise ferry services of Finland had also reduced the number of sailings and are now slowly returning to business as usual. 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 Ships 1,000 lower beds © Hader • German travel operator FTI decided to set an end to its cruise business. The only vessel, »Berlin«, was sold to a yacht chartering company for conversion. • Pullmantur Cruises had operated on the difficult Spanish market the years before. When the pandemic began to show its effects, the Royal Caribbean Group decided to set an end to this affiliate. • Cruise & Maritime Voyages of UK has been a rapidly expanding company with elderly ships on the British and German (TransOcean Tours with the »Astor«) markets. Two more ships of the Carnival Group had been earmarked to join the group in the coming months. However, bills could not be paid anymore, ships were arrested and auctioned in October 2020. The outcome of the auctions showed the drastic reduction of cruise ship values in the pandemic. Scrapyards were able to offer higher prices than potential operators, because buying a cruise ship could not be based on a viable business plan but only on pure speculation. Newbuilding orders The order book for new cruise vessels had been on a high level for years. The shipyards had full order books with delivery dates up to the year 2027 and the operators used every slot for early deliveries. This changed fundamentally within a few weeks and has a long-term effect. Suddenly it became impossible to organize gatherings of thousands of people like in cruise shipping. Big ships became Corona hot spots and the expedition vessels with a lower passenger density and small guest numbers showed to be less problematic. Delivery dates for new cruise ships were not only postponed, no new big ship was ordered since March 2020. There are only two exceptions in the whole cruise market: The old brand name Swan Hellenic had been brought to life again for two expeditions ships under construction in Helsinki 20 HANSA – International Maritime Journal 09 | 2021

SCHIFFFAHRT | SHIPPING when a third order was added in October 2020. In 2021, Meyer Werft of Papenburg was the only winner of a contract to build a new cruise ship up to now. The operator of the 744-bed vessel will be NYK Cruises of Japan. While the order book cannot increase without new contracts, it is also not decreasing as it was expected. One reason is the postponement of deliveries, the other is the uncertainty of some contracts. It took some months to reach agreements between owners and ship builders. Some delays were caused when the shipyards had to stop working because of virus outbreaks among the working staff or when they had to wait for subcontracted parts. The ship operators could wait because they did not need the new ships, while the shipyards have wait for their money, since a major part of the contract value is paid upon delivery. For later deliveries, both were able to agree on new schedules, because the operators did not know when the markets would recover and builders feared not to win further contracts for several years. Stretching of the order books seemed to be a good compromise. In general, no cancellations were reported, but for the Genting group, which is acting as owner, operator and shipbuilder at the same time, the situation became hard to survive. The group makes a major part of its money in casinos in Malaysia and was eager to broaden its presence in the cruise market. With other shipyards being fully occupied, Genting bought three shipyards in Eastern Germany and two series of ships were under construction when the pandemic led to a closure of the casinos and the shipyards. Genting had to stop payments and the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was forced to support the shipyards to keep them alive. The final outcome is not yet decided, but the first of three luxury expedition vessels left the Stralsund shipyard after long delays in June 2021. The contracts »Norwegian Prima« was launched in August by Fincantieri for two sister vessels were suspended when the shipyards ran short of money. The completion of the first of two giant mass market vessels for a maximum of 9,500 passengers will take some more time. Since the sections of the hull had already been joined together, it was too late to stop construction of the ship with the highest capacity worldwide. Its completion is now scheduled for 2022. Construction of the sister vessel had started but was also suspended. © Fincantieri HANSA – International Maritime Journal 09 | 2021 21

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