Thursday, December 2, 2010

Carrier Trade Group Suggests Increased Transpac Rates

Citing cooling end-of-the-year cargo volumes and rising operational costs, the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement trade group has recommended voluntary rate increases on upcoming contracts – most taking effect May 1, 2011 – of $400 per forty-foot-container unit bound for United States West Coast ports and $600 per FEU for all other cargo.

In addition, the TSA is recommending that its 15 transpacific ocean-carrier members seek "full recovery of costs for other equipment sizes and improved collection of floating bunker and inland fuel charges as well as Panama Canal, Alameda Corridor and other fixed accessorial charges."

The TSA also recommended adjustments to store-door delivery rates as warranted, "to levels that adequately compensate carriers for rising costs in providing those services," according to a TSA statement.

Finally, the TSA recommended a peak season surcharge of $400 per FEU, effective from June 15, 2011 through November 30, 2011, with those dates subject to adjustment based on changing market conditions.

By law, the TSA cannot impose rate increases, only suggest them to its members. In practice, though, TSA recommendations are nearly universally adopted by member carriers.

The TSA said in a statement that despite two early quarters of growth in 2010, a transpacific peak season that cooled as early as July has left the transpacific trade lanes lagging relative to other Asia container markets, while operating costs continue to rise.

The TSA members noted a dramatic trade-wide improvement in the supply-demand situation for freight shippers during 2010. Asia-US cargo growth for the year has been surprisingly strong, and is forecast to settle near 12 percent by year end. According to industry analysts AXS Alphaliner, transpacific capacity grew by 18.6 percent in the November 2009 to November 2010 period. The first three quarters of 2010 saw 15 new and restored services enter the trade to meet demand, in part the result of improved rate levels. These included three new operators.

TSA members are also forecasting 6 percent to 9 percent cargo growth from Asia to the US in 2011. According to the TSA, meeting that demand and covering contingencies for a possible stronger recovery will require sustained revenue improvement.

“The transpacific market is clearly returning to some kind of ‘normality’, with the US and Asian economies still closely linked and imports from Asia still vital to US consumers and businesses,” TSA chairman and Hanjin Shipping Co. Ltd. CEO Y.M. Kim said.

However, Kim cautioned that added revenue is also necessary to support the service levels customers have come to expect in this trade. “Maintaining a stable infrastructure for the movement of goods is no less important today than in past years, and that will take sustained levels of carrier investment over time.”

The TSA carriers acknowledged that the financial picture has improved significantly this year, as the world economy has started to recover from the global financial crisis that began in earnest in 2008 and hit the industry hard in 2009. However, according to TSA, further revenue recovery is needed to restore financial stability.

“Carriers have experienced solid revenue growth across their entire networks in 2010, but two strong quarters in the transpacific – a highly competitive freight market with very thin margins – still do not fully offset two years of heavy losses,” Kim explained. “We said last year that we would not seek to recover all our losses in one year.
TSA Executive Administrator Brian M. Conrad said that a number of operating costs have continued to rise steadily, including labor, container handling, inland transport, and both purchase and leasing of container equipment during the persistent global shortage. Appreciation of some Asian currencies has effectively increased local currency costs relative to US dollar-denominated freight rates. Conrad said individual lines would be discussing with customers in greater detail the background to their revenue and cost recovery objectives as contract negotiations move forward.

Seattle Port Adopts $500 Million Budget for 2011

The governing board for the Port of Seattle on Monday approved a 2011 budget that includes just over $385 million in capital development and the retention of the $73.5 million in tax levy revenue paid to the port by area property owners.
"Generating jobs, protecting our environment, and holding taxes flat – those are our priorities and they are reflected in this budget," said Commission President Bill Bryant in a port statement.

Due to the port's austerity measures – including more than $28 million in 2009 budgeted cuts – and increased cargo volumes, the port is forecast to end 2010 in the black with a net income of $53 million.

Despite this, port CEO Tay Yoshitani said "We also expect costs to increase next year – particularly in employee benefits, deferred maintenance at existing facilities, and certain initiatives focused on maintaining our competitiveness and positioning the Port for future growth. We must continue to manage our budgets diligently and effectively."

The 2011 budget calls for no increase of the tax levy on local property owners over 2010 levels. However, the budget calls for the revenue level to remain constant, not the tax levy rate. If property values decline, levy rates to property owners would have to be increased to maintain the $73.5 million total public contribution to the port authority's finances.

The port authority's total 2011 operating revenues are budgeted at $498.5 million, a $21.7 million or 4.6 percent increase from the 2010 budget. Operating expenses are budgeted at $282.8 million, a $20.0 million or 7.6 percent increase compared to the 2010 budget. Excluding several extraordinary items, which according to the port authority include a capital policy change, the Port Centennial, deferred maintenance, new rental car facilities, regulatory requirements, and spending requested by airlines, the baseline increase is $8.0 million or 3.0 percent over the 2010 budget. Net Operating Income before Depreciation is $215.7 million, a $1.8 million or 0.8 percent increase over 2010.

The port authority oversees the Port of Seattle, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and various real estate interests.

The seaport expects growth from container volumes, crane rental and lease revenues to increase 2011 operating revenue by about 5 percent compared to the 2010 budget. Container volumes are expected to increase about 12 percent compared to initial 2010 budgeted volume, but, according to port officials, that increase will be slightly offset by a decrease in cruise ship revenue – the current schedule for 2011 cruise ship calls forecasts a 6 percent decline in passenger numbers. Critical 2011 port initiatives identified in the 2011 budget include developing a stewardship plan for key division assets, implementing a Green Gateway strategy, and developing near- and long-term strategies for increasing revenues.

Operating revenues from the Seaport Division are budgeted at $99.0 million. Total operating expenses including corporate costs are $47.1 million. Net operating income before depreciation is budgeted at $51.9 million.

The port’s Real Estate Division operating revenue is expected to grow by about 3 percent compared to 2010 budget levels. Revenue from the Bell Harbor International Conference Center is projected to increase by more than 15 percent as more events are scheduled there and at the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal. A continuing soft real estate market, according to port officials, could mean higher vacancies at the port's commercial properties and marinas. Key focus areas for the Real Estate Division cited in the 2011 budget will be to "closely manage costs, catch up on maintenance of properties, and manage retained sections of the Eastside Rail Corridor."

The Real Estate Division's operating revenues are budgeted at $30.7 million and total operating expenses including corporate costs are $36.1 million. Net operating income before depreciation is minus $5.4 million.

At Sea-Tac Airport, passenger levels dropped significantly less than at other major airports. Through June of 2010, domestic enplanements are down 1.3 percent over last year, but international enplanements are up 4.9 percent, for a net decline of 0.7 percent from 2009. The domestic airline industry is expected to be profitable in 2010 – Alaska Air Group reported record earnings for the second quarter – but it is not yet clear when airlines will see passenger volumes growing enough to increase capacity. For the remainder of 2010, the port authority expects no increase in passenger levels. For 2011 port authority officials forecast a modest increase of 1.0 percent. The Aviation Division business strategy for 2011 will concentrate on non-airline revenues and managing airline costs, according to the 2011 budget executive summary.

Operating revenues for the Aviation Division are budgeted at $367.8 million. Revenues from airlines are $216.4 million, non-airline revenues are $143.0 million, and revenue from Fuel Hydrant is budgeted at $8.4 million. Total operating expenses are budgeted at $197.9 million. Net operating income before depreciation is budgeted at $169.9 million.

Oakland Port Signs Cold Supply Chain Development Agreement With Chinese Firm

The Port of Oakland, one of the leading export ports for US agriculture products, has signed an agreement with China Merchants Holdings International to strategically market and develop supply chain solutions for US exports, particularly agricultural commodities and perishable products.

Officially signed in a ceremony at China Merchants’ Hong Kong headquarters earlier this month, the agreement will focus on enhancing warehousing and logistics facilities and creating seamless cold chain services for US companies exporting their perishable products to China.

According to port officials, the agreement is part of the port's effort to "aggressively coordinating its activities" with the federal National Export Initiative. The NEI was signed by President Barack Obama in March and seeks to double US exports by 2015.

The first activity of the Oakland/China Merchants partnership was the Cold Chain and Logistics Seminar held shortly after the signing of the agreement earlier this month in Chengdu, in central China. The seminar focused on the demand for US products in the emerging markets of western China. Leading ocean carriers and logistics providers attending the event discussed distribution challenges in China's inland regions and offered case studies. The seminar was co-sponsored by the Port of Oakland, the US Foreign Agriculture Service, and the California Agriculture Export Council.

China Merchants is a public port operator in China with a network of ports in China's coastal regions, including the Bohai region, Yangtze River Delta, Xiamen Bay Economic Zone, Pearl River Delta, and the Southwest region. In the first six months of 2009, China Merchants handled almost 25 million TEUs at its ports, terminals and logistics facilities throughout China.

“The form and scale of this partnership is a first for the US port industry,” said Omar Benjamin, Port of Oakland Executive Director. “China is a significant and rapidly growing market for US food and agriculture products, but the lack of cold chain services is inhibiting the export potential. Our initiatives will help make it easier, safer and faster to export US commodities from California and distribute them throughout China.”

China Merchants recently formed a joint venture – China Merchants Americold Logistics – in partnership with US -based Americold, one of the largest cold chain providers in North America. According to Oakland port officials, this venture seeks to solidify the joint venture entity as China’s premier third-party temperature-controlled logistics provider, operating an integrated platform across 15 cities in China.

FMC Commissioner Hopefuls Face Senate Committee

The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Monday held a hearing to consider the nomination of Port of Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Mario Cordero and the re-nomination of current FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye as Commissioners at the Federal Maritime Commission.

The FMC is an independent regulatory agency of the United States government charged with the administration of the regulatory provisions of federal shipping laws and responsible for the regulation of ocean-borne transportation in the foreign commerce of the US

President Barack Obama re-nominated Commissioner Dye for a third term as a Federal Maritime Commissioner, and announced the nomination of Cordero, in September.

Commissioner Dye was first nominated to the five-seat FMC board in 2002 by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate in November 2002. She was nominated to her second term, which expires on June 30, 2010, by President Bush in July 2005, and confirmed by the Senate later the same month.

Prior to joining the FMC, Commissioner Dye was Counsel to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the US House of Representatives from 1995 until 2002.

“If confirmed by the Senate, I will be fair-minded and objective in executing the Commission’s statutory directives," Commissioner Dye testified on Monday. "I will do all I can to guarantee that all entities regulated by the Commission are provided with a fair market environment in which to operate. I will also work to eliminate unfair shipping practices by foreign governments, and protect cruise ship passengers against undue financial risk.”

First time FMC nominee Cordero is an attorney currently serving his second six-year term as a Port of Long Beach harbor commissioner. The harbor commission sets policy and provides oversight for the operation and maintenance of the port. During his tenure on the port board, Cordero has been involved in the harbor commission's approval of numerous environmental remediation programs designed by port staff to cut harmful pollution generated by port activities.

“I am eager to put my experience to work on behalf of the Federal Maritime Commission," Cordero told the Senate Committee on Monday. "The Commission’s work is vital in assisting the economic recovery by facilitating international trade through the nation’s ports, as well as supporting increases in the efficiency and sustainability of shipping and port operations.”

Ironically, Cordero, now nominated to a position setting national maritime policy, has been a staunch defender during his tenure on the Long Beach port board of local government rights superseding federal interstate commerce laws such as those administered by the FMC.

The next steps for Dye and Cordero are consideration for approval by the Committee and if approved, then a vote by the full Senate.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Armed Robbers Use Own Rigs to Steal Containers from Los Angeles Port Truck Yard

A nighttime armed robbery at a Port of Los Angeles trailer storage yard left a guard and yard employee injured after thieves made off with five cargo containers.

An unidentified suspect approached the yard at 1000 Farragut Ave. in Wilmington about 10 p.m. Sunday posing as a lost truck driver. The suspect lured the unarmed guard out of the yard where two additional masked suspects overpowered and beat the guard. The suspects also beat an unidentified female yard employee, tying up and leaving both victims in a security office at the location, according to Los Angeles Harbor Police.

The thieves, who claimed to have guns that were never brandished, then used their own tractors to make off with five trailers with loaded containers, according to an uninjured witness who spoke with police.

Both guards were transported to area hospitals with minor to moderate facial and head injuries, but were reported in good condition.

Police continue to investigate the crime and have not released information on contents of the stolen containers.

The storage yard is in a remote northern area of the port and located less than a block from a freeway on-ramp.

California leads the nation in cargo theft, with nearly twice the reported incidents than number two Florida.

"After a significant spike in cargo theft activity in 2009, we expected theft rates to level out somewhat in 2010,” said Ron Greene, General Manager of logistics security firm FreightWatch International, USA. “What we are witnessing, however, is a more targeted approach by cargo thieves, seeking multi-trailer thefts and large scale warehouse burglaries, including the largest loss on record.”

According to the FreightWatch mid-year 2010 cargo theft report, food and beverages emerged as the most commonly stolen by cargo thieves, accounting for 22 percent of all theft incidents. Meat products, canned beverages (sports drinks, energy drinks and juices), and raw products (such as sugar and coffee) were the most commonly stolen products in the food and beverage commodity category.

Thefts of electronics were a close second, accounting for 19 percent of all theft incidents.

Tacoma Port Approves Austerity Budget for 2011

The Port of Tacoma last week, facing declining revenues and recession weary taxpayers, adopted a conservative 2011 budget calling for significant austerity measures.
The adopted budget calls for no increases in tax levies for local residents and no increases in port staffing.

The port, which projects a nearly $1 million drop in net income for 2011, will also have to live with a budgeted 12.8 percent cut in operating expenses – from $108.9 million this year to $95 million in 2011.

The cuts are based on the projection by port officials that the port will garner no new customers through the end of 2011 and experience only minimal cargo increases in the same period.

Tacoma has suffered exceptionally because of a long-running battle with other Puget Sound ports for customers, as well as the worldwide recession. Since 2006 Tacoma has seen a nearly 30 percent drop in cargo volumes, from a high four years ago of 2.1 million TEUs to this year's projected total of 1.5 million TEUs. The port expects to handle almost the same number of containers next year.

Commissioner also decided to hold off any increases to the property tax levy, keeping the rate that local residents pay to 18.365 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, the same as in 2009 and this year. Despite the static tax levy, the port expects to collect about $1.5 million less because property values are declining. The levy bill for the average homeowner will remain about $4.03 per month.

The new budget also calls for the port to incur no new debt for capital projects.

New Number Two Exec at Port of Everett

The Washington-state Port of Everett has hired Les Reardanz as the port's new executive second-in-command.

Reardanz, 45, is set to take over as the port's chief administrative officer in January, replacing the retiring Jerry Heller.

A graduate of Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles and a captain in the Naval Reserve, Reardanz currently serves as a legal adviser and waterfront project manager for the city of Bellingham. During his tenure at Bellingham, Reardanz played a key role in the city's effort to redevelop 220 acres of under-used waterfront property.

Everett port officials expect Reardanz to help the port streamline organizational processes and implement projects such as the Port Gardner Wharf redevelopment and the transfer of U.S. Air Force property to the port.

In his new role, Reardanz will also oversee port financial matters--including contracts and union negotiations--as well as oversight of the port's human relations.
The port, which is a key partner with local industrial firms such as Boeing, generates $3.6 billion in revenue to local businesses and $246.8 million in state and local taxes.

Matson to Hike Container Rates and Fees to Hawaii

Jones Act-carrier Matson Navigation said last week it will raise its basic shipping rates and terminal handling charges on containers to and from Hawaii by an average total of 10 percent per container starting Jan. 2. The Oakland-based carrier, the largest serving the island state, cited the need to offset higher operating costs and the need to support investments.

The base rate for containers will rise an average of 3.8 percent per container, or $120 per westbound box and $60 per eastbound box.

Terminal handling charges will climb an average 20.6 percent per box, an increase of $175 per westbound box and $85 per eastbound box.

Both the base rate and terminal handling charges are separate from Matson's 21.75 percent per box fuel surcharge.

The combined base rate and terminal handling increases total nearly a 10 percent price increase for an average Hawaii-bound container--a price currently running about $3,000 per box.

While Matson's Hawaii-based parent-firm Alexander & Baldwin saw a surge in third-quarter profits, the increase was due mainly to Matson's burgeoning West Coast-China service. Matson's Hawaii services, automobile and container, both posted down volumes in the third quarter.

Cruising – Out with the Old, In with the New

By Jim Shaw

This year marks the end for all but a very few of the generation of cruise ships that were originally built for liner work but later converted for cruising. New Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) regulations have meant that most of these older vessels have now been taken out of service and sold for scrap. Among the most recent to go to Asian breakers has been Saga Rose, built by Great Britain’s Swan Hunter Shipbuilders in 1973 as Vistafjord for Norwegian America Line and now awaiting demolition in Jiangyin, China.

Already under the breaker’s torches in India is Blue Monarch, built for the liner operations of Compagnie Française de Navigation in 1966 as Renaissance and later modified for cruising by Epirotiki Line of Greece.

Another classic passenger ship under demolition in India is the 1957-built Ivory, which once operated an express liner route in the Mediterranean for Italy’s Adriatica Line as Ausonia. Demolished earlier this year were the 1962-built Salamis Glory and 1953-built Olympia, the former an ex-Brazilian coastal liner built as Anna Nery while the latter was better known in the Florida cruise trade under the names Caribe 1 and Regal Empress.

Still laying on the Indian coast is the former American-flag cruise ship Independence, once part of the American Hawaii Cruises fleet but now deteriorating rapidly in the surf with a broken keel.

New Ships
While these older ships meet their end, yet another wave of new generation cruise ships is being introduced, and more ordered, despite the lingering recession. Delivered this past summer was Seattle-based Holland America Line’s 87,000-gt Nieuw Amsterdam, completed by Italy’s Fincantieri yard at Marghera and expected to make its first world cruise in 2012.

Like sister ship Eurodam, delivered in 2008, Nieuw Amsterdam is powered by six MaK M 43 C engines with a combined output of 64,000 kW driving AC generators. A top speed of 24 knots and a service speed of 22 knots are furnished by twin Azipod drives.

The 235 meter by 32.2 meter ship differs from sister Eurodam in having an interior that pays homage to its namesake city, New York, as well as several new-style public rooms and a slightly higher passenger capacity.

Fincantieri, which has now built 14 vessels for HAL, also delivered the 2,862-passenger Costa Deliziosa to associated Costa Line this year and is building two more 114,500-gt vessels for the Italian company. Last month Fincantieri turned over the 2,092-passenger Queen Elizabeth to Cunard Line, also part of the Carnival Group. As a mark of the new ship’s popularity, its maiden voyage to the Canary Islands sold out in 29 minutes, 14 seconds.

Latest Queen
The 90,400-gt Queen Elizabeth is perhaps the most anticipated ship of this year’s crop, which has already included such vessels as MSC Magnifica, Celebrity Eclipse, Azura, Norwegian Epic and Seabourn Sojourn. The hull of the new Cunarder is based on Carnival’s Vista class and is a close sister to the earlier delivered Queen Victoria but slightly larger due to a more vertical stern. Because of this difference the largest suites at the rear of the ship have slightly smaller balconies than those on Victoria. Another external difference is a glass roof covering the games deck forward, unlike the open sports deck on the 2007-built vessel.

Although having an almost identical interior arrangement as her sister, Queen Elizabeth’s decor is different as it pays tribute to the two previous Cunard Queen Elizabeths: the original Queen Elizabeth of 1938 and Queen Elizabeth 2, retired last year and now awaiting its future in Dubai.

Besides many art deco interior touches the new Queen features a Britannia Club section in the main restaurant, a popular feature on Queen Mary 2 but not available on Queen Victoria.

Propulsion-wise the 964.5-foot by 106-foot Queen Elizabeth makes use of four MaK 12 M 43 C and two MaK 8 M 43 C diesels providing a speed of 23.5 knots through two ABB pods. Ride and maneuverability are enhanced through the incorporation of two Fincantieri Riva Trigoso Stabilizers and three Fincantieri Riva Trigoso Thrusters.

Carnival Breeze
Looking well beyond the current economic slump, Carnival has ordered another three ships from Fincantieri for other brands of its group, with the first to be a sister to Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Dream, delivered last year, and its yet-to-be-completed sister, Carnival Magic, floated out of Fincantieri’s Monfalcone yard in August for delivery next spring. The Monfalcone facility will also build the latest 130,000-gt Carnival ship, which is priced at $738 million and will be delivered in 2012 as Carnival Breeze.

Gerry Cahill, President and CEO of Carnival Cruise Line, said the newbuilding will have the same outdoor layout as its sister ships, including a promenade running the whole of the ship’s external perimeter. However, the 3,690-passenger cruise liner will feature a larger number of deluxe ocean view staterooms with two-bathrooms and more cabins with five berths in response to growing family requirements.

Propulsion will be provided by six 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 46 engines in a diesel-electric configuration, with each generating set having a rated output of 12,600 kW at 514 rpm driving twin shafts for a service speed of 22.5 knots.

Princess Prototypes
The second two ships to be built by Fincantieri will be for the Los Angeles-based Princess Cruises brand. These will be twin 141,000-gt vessels due for delivery in the first quarters of 2013 and 2014 as the largest vessels ever built for Princess. To cost approximately €155,000 per lower berth to build, the twin 3,600-passenger capacity ships will be new prototypes for the Carnival Group, thus could be followed by additional vessels of the same class for other brands of the Carnival fleet, similar to what has happened with the Vista class.

Preliminary plans disclose that all sea-view cabins on the new ships, to represent 80 percent of all passenger accommodation on board, will have private balconies while the main entrance halls, wellness centers and restaurants will be larger than those found on current Princess vessels and will feature a more luxurious décor.

AIDA Order
For its Europe-based AIDA Cruises brand, Carnival has returned to Germany’s Meyer Werft for another “club” style cruise ship, a concept that is popular with younger European travelers. The 71,300-gt vessel is the seventh ship ordered for the German cruise operator in the past six years and is expected to cost about €150,000 per lower berth to build. It is scheduled to enter service in the spring of 2013.

Design-wise, the 2,192 passenger newbuilding will follow the similar-sized AIDAsol, set to debut in April 2011, and an as-yet-unnamed sister ship, due for completion in mid-2012. These ships will make use of diesel-electric propulsion systems consisting of four MaK 9 M 43 C diesel/generator sets feeding two electric motors driving shafted propellers for a service speed of 21.8 knots.

“With growth that is outpacing other regions of the world, expanding our European brands continues to be a priority for us,” said Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation & plc chairman and CEO. “This new AIDA ship will build upon the brand’s leadership position in the fast-growing German-speaking market, while offering a unique onboard experience preferred by its clientele.”

Celebrity Celebration
Carnival competitor Royal Caribbean has been taking delivery of a number of new ships for its Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises brands, with the latter accepting the Celebrity EclipseCelebrity Eclipse from Germany’s Meyer Werft in April. The 1,850-passenger is the third vessel in the company’s $3.7 billion Solstice Class fleet, which will see number four, Celebrity Silhouette, completed by Meyer Werft next year.

Like its sister ships, the 122,000-gt Celebrity Silhouette will measure 1,033 feet (314.8m) by 121 feet (36.8m) and accommodate 2,850 passengers served by a crew of 1,500. Propulsion will be provided by four Wärtsilä diesel/generator sets delivering power to two 20.5MW Azipod drive units to give a top speed of 24 knots.

On their upper decks these vessels feature Celebrity’s unique “Lawn Club,” a half-acre of real grass that requires constant attention, perhaps reminding passengers of what they are missing at home. The Celebrity fleet will gain its fifth yet-to-be-named Solstice class ship in 2012.

World’s Largest
Another Royal Caribbean brand, Royal Caribbean International (RCI), expects to inaugurate sailings with its new Allure of the Seas from Port Everglades, Florida in early December. Measuring 1,181 feet (360m) by 154 feet (47m) the 225,282-gt, 16-deck vessel will carry 5,400 passengers (double occupancy) in 2,700 staterooms. Although similar in layout to sister ship Oasis of the Seas, introduced last year, Allure of the Seas will feature some interior differences. These will be brought about by agreements signed earlier this year with DreamWorks Animations, Chicago The Musical, and pop culture icon Romero Britto. Under the agreements “Chicago” will become the ship’s signature entertainment show during the evening hours.

At the same time, the first Britto Concept store at sea will be opened on Allure. The store will be located in the vessel’s Central Park area and will feature a unique Britto sculpture to provide passengers with a family photo venue. Throughout cruises, DreamWorks Animations will provide a number of its celebrity characters on board, including Shrek, Fiona and Puss In Boots of the “Shrek” series. Like Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas will operate alternating Western and Eastern Caribbean seven-night itineraries out of Port Everglades.

Disney Dream
Following very quickly after the inauguration of RCI’s Allure of the Seas will be Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Dream, which is due to set sail on its maiden voyage from Port Canaveral, Florida in late January. To be two decks taller than the cruise line’s existing Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the 128,000-gt newbuilding will measure 1,115 feet by 121 feet and will accommodate more than 4,000 passengers. It will incorporate the talents of associated Disney Imagineering and will carry a water coaster, the “AquaDuck”, on its upper decks. At the same time the ship’s main dining rooms, the Animator’s Palate restaurant, will transform into an undersea wonderland during dining hours.

Also on board will be a number of elaborately-themed children’s spaces, while adults will have their own separate nighttime entertainment district. In addition, passengers booking an inside stateroom will still get a view, thanks to another cruise industry first by Disney, the camera-driven “virtual porthole.”

Propulsion of the vessel will be more conventional, utilizing three 12-cylinder and two 14-cylinder MAN 48/64CR engines linked to two 19-megawatt Converteam propulsion motors to drive twin props for a speed of 22 knots.

Norwegian Epic
A major cruise ship delivery this past summer was Norwegian Cruise Line’s 155,873-gt Norwegian Epic, completed by STX’s St. Nazaire shipyard in France. The 19-deck, 1,080-foot (329.5m) by 133-foot (40.5m) ship had experienced several problems during construction, and faced a minor mechanical fault on its maiden voyage, but was able to cross the Atlantic in early July to be christened at New York City by entertainer Reba McEntire. The new vessel then moved to Miami to take up a series of regularly-scheduled alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises that will last until next May when it will reposition to Europe to operate a series of seven-day Western Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, Spain.

Norwegian Epic makes use of a diesel-electric system for a cruising speed of 22 knots, with the system incorporating six MaK engines driving twin shafted propellers through high-torque density-induction motors fed by PWM converters. The diesels, manufactured by Caterpillar Motoren GmbH & Co KG in Germany, meet DNV Clean Design requirements and rely on a low cylinder rating to decrease fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Yet to place a ship on the Pacific Coast is Switzerland-based MSC Cruises, not as well known as some of its competitors but now ranked as the world’s fourth largest cruise line. It is also a division of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second largest container carrier. Earlier this year MSC finalized its order for a new 1,751-cabin cruise liner from STX France’s Saint Nazaire yard that will cost approximately $575 million to build. To be christened MSC Fantastica, the vessel is due for delivery in the late spring of 2012.

Prior to this order the Swiss company had placed its most recent ship, the $547 million MSC Magnifica, into service as its fourth “Musica” class vessel. The 93,330-gt Magnifica features 22,000 square meters of public area and has been fitted with a Magrodome retractable roof to make its main pool area accessible in all weather conditions. Like most of MSC’s other vessels, Magnifica has been working in the Mediterranean this year but the firm’s third Musica class ship, MSC Poesia, has been offering cruises from New York City to New England/Eastern Canada and will switch to Port Everglades, Florida this month to provide a number of Caribbean cruises, all at highly competitive rates.