You might think that when it comes to cruise ships, the length they’re built is the length they will remain. But ship lengthening – slicing vessels in two and inserting a new middle section to make a longer ship that can carry more passengers while benefiting from updated equipment and a longer lifetime – has been carried out by experienced shipyards for decades. It requires expertise, innovation and most importantly, trust – all factors that made Wärtsilä and Fincantieri’s partnership a resounding success.
Fincantieri shipyard is located in Sicily’s beautiful capital Palermo, home to some of the most important shipyards in the Mediterranean. The yard is well-regarded for their expertise in cruise ship renovations and lengthening projects, so Windstar
Cruises knew they were in safe hands when they turned to Fincantieri with a complex and comprehensive lengthening, engine replacement and renovation project for three of their cruise ships, the Star Breeze, the Star Legend and the Star Pride.
At Windstar Cruises’ request, the Fincantieri shipyard embarked on one of the most complex and comprehensive small-ship lengthening, engine replacement, and renovation projects ever for a cruise line.
Lengthening was an attractive proposition for Windstar Cruises, as Andrew Toso, Deputy Director of Services at Fincantieri explains: “There are several reasons why lengthening is interesting for owners. It can increase the payload of the vessel with a reasonable investment and the vessel is only out of service for a short time. It can also improve the green footprint of the vessel and install additional features.”
Apart from increased capacity and modern amenities for customers, lengthening offers a relatively short payback time. Additionally, it allows vessels to have an increased payload with the same fuel consumption thereby increasing vessel efficiency. Lengthening also increases the ship’s stability and weight margins and gives owners additional space onboard to install additional equipment required to fulfil different regulatory requirements.
Ship lengthening is a highly technical and specialised process, akin to building a new vessel from scratch. “The insertion of a new section is very complex because you are putting a completely new section in a vessel that has existing structures,
systems and subsystems,” shares Toso. “The design phase is similar to that of a new build vessel, since you need to take the same amount of care to ensure the lengthened vessel is structurally sound and hydrodynamically optimised.”
The need for an experienced design partner with their own integrated technological solutions is one of the main reasons Fincantieri turned to Wärtsilä. Wärtsilä is the only company in the marine market that has an extensive portfolio of products, solutions, and technologies along with the required experience, expertise and competencies required to retrofit ships.
The need for an experienced design partner with their own integrated technological solutions is one of the main reasons Fincantieri turned to Wärtsilä.
“Wärtsilä has been a partner since the preliminary stages of the project and was involved even during the feasibility study. There aren’t many companies that are able to provide the full service from feasibility analysis right through to the production phase,” says Toso. “With Wärtsilä we put together a tailor-made solution for the shipowner, from design to execution to delivery. We were able to fulfil the owner’s requirement of increased overall performance, performance of a new engine block, development of new control systems and automation of systems.”
The lengthening of the vessels involved the near-simultaneous reengineering of equipment and systems. In addition to upgrading the main engines and auxiliary engines, the scope also included upgrades to the emissions control system, propulsion system
and gearboxes. To do this, thousands of critical systems and sub-systems were taken apart and then put back together along with new components. This required intensive planning and preparation from both sides.
“The lengthening of vessels can lead to a change in their power requirement,” explains Ivan Catalfamo, General Manager, Project Sales at Wärtsilä. “This means adding more powerful generators, more powerful engines, and auxiliary engines to act as a backup. Then you need to make sure all this new power does not overload the propellor shaft, so you also need a monitoring system to ensure everything is working properly. The integration of the new portion and its systems is the most challenging part of lengthening projects.”
Thousands of critical systems and sub-systems were taken apart and then put back together along with new components. This required intensive planning and preparation from both sides.
“From an operational point of view the lengthening of the Windstar vessels took about 15,000 hours during the design phase and about 400,000 hours in the yard,” shares Toso. “We had 500 workers and technicians onboard every day for almost
a year to ensure that every part of the vessel operated perfectly. Needless to say, we trusted that every person and partner knew their piece of the puzzle.”
“Wärtsilä is the only company in the market with such an extensive portfolio of products and technological solutions,” points out Catalfamo. “At the same time, we also have the expertise and competencies as a complete marine systems integrator to combine these products and solutions. We are a one-stop shop for turnkey projects.”
The Windstar project has not only made each of the Star class ships more spacious and modern – it has also helped them meet the IMO’s emission requirements with efficient new engines that run on cleaner fuel. The added length of 25.6 metres per vessel has allowed each ship to accommodate an additional 50 suites with space for 100 extra passengers – an overall capacity increase of 24% for Windstar. The project has also added new state-of-the-art public spaces, including two new dining locations, a new shop and retail space, a much-enlarged fitness centre and a reconfigured spa.
The three lengthened cruise ships have been delivered to Windstar, with the most recent delivery taking place in October 2021. Fincantieri has high hopes that this project will serve as a reference for other lengthening and retrofit activities that it
will conduct in the years ahead.
“The Windstar project can be considered a milestone for the industry not only because of the magnitude of the project, but also because it provides a clear roadmap of what can be achieved with the right planning, expertise, technology and partners,” says Toso. “I see it acting as the benchmark for our lengthening and retrofit activities in the future.”