‘MSC Seaside’ has put down a new marker for Italian design and construction as her Swiss-based owner rolls out an ambitious and innovative, 10-year fleet investment programme.
As the world’s most prolific builder of cruise vessels, Fincantieri has reached a new milestone in its unerring business drive by delivering the largest ship constructed in Italy to date. At 323m in overall length, the 153,500gt MSC Seaside has a capacity for a maximum of 5,119 passengers and constitutes a further advance in design and technology in one of the most sophisticated fields of commercial shipbuilding. On the occasion of the November handover ceremony for MSC Seaside at the Monfalcone yard, near Trieste, where sistership MSC Seaview is nearing completion, MSC Cruises extended its contractual commitments with Fincantieri by signing for two newbuilds of still greater size and capacity, dubbed the Seaside EVO class. Privately-owned, Geneva-based MSC Cruises ranks among the industry’s fastest growing brands, with a total of 12 ships costing EUR10.5bn (US$12.9bn) planned for introduction between 2017 and 2026. All the tonnage has been contracted from Fincantieri and the premier French shipbuilding organisation STX France, in which the Italian group is acquiring a 50% stake. MSC Seaside is the second delivery under the programme, following the handover of the Saint Nazaire-built MSC Meraviglia earlier in 2017.
MSC Cruises ranks as the market leader in European cruising, as it is also in South America and South Africa, but the €700m (US$863m) MSC Seaside is pivotal to the owner’s strategic drive to build a strong presence in the USA.
Through the year-round deployment of MSC Seaside out of Miami, alongside an existing fleet member, the 139,400gt MSC Divina, the company has realised a major stage in its US market and Caribbean cruise business investment plan. This also embraces the creation of a private island destination and resort, Ocean Cay in the Bahamas, due to be ready by 2019. The long-term commitment to cruising from southern Florida is expressed in the recent renovation and expansion of Miami’s Cruise Terminal F to serve the company’s ships, implemented following an agreement between MSC Cruises and port operator Miami-Dade County. The brand’s profile will be raised further in 2019 by the transfer of the 171,600gt MSC Meraviglia from the Mediterranean to the US for Caribbean cruising. MSC Seaside started her regular schedule of seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries towards the end of December 2017. Although the ship’s market allure lies in the wealth and nature of her passenger facilities coupled with new approaches to interior and outboard design, the vessel is a showcase for environmentally-attuned engineering, including exhaust ‘scrubber’ plant, waste heat recovery, advanced water treatment, seawater-lubricated bearings, LED lighting, and optimised hull lines, propellers and rudders to reduce drag and energy consumption.
The basic design concept is unusual and is a product of the need to balance an efficient hull form with a large internal volume and good weight distribution. Fincantieri suggests that the vessel blends cutting-edge marine technology with a design that revisits fundamental aspects of layout in classic transatlantic liners. In striving for a well-balanced overall weight distribution, the engine rooms, uptakes and funnel casing have been located amidships. The resulting configuration, centre of gravity and centre of buoyancy have a beneficial influence on hydrodynamics. Space for tanks both fore and aft enables the ship to keep a better trim while bunkers and water are gradually consumed. The nature of the design layout reduces the hull bending moment, permitting a more efficient, lower weight steel structure.
OPEN DECK SPACE
Public spaces cover 46,000m2, with an exceptionally high proportion accounted for by outside areas, amounting to 14,000m2. The Genoese firm De Jorio Design International was entrusted with the interior and exterior design. A key aim has been to maximise external spaces and facilities, in accordance with MSC Cruises’ objective of “bringing guests closer to the sea”.
Whereas the majority of open deck space in large cruise ships tends to be on the uppermost deck areas, effectively distancing passengers from the sea, MSC Seaside has a seven-metre-wide deck at a much lower level going all around the ship and known as the Waterfront Boardwalk. This substantially increases the amount of open space per passenger while fostering closer contact with the sea environment. In addition, there is a high degree of continuity between outside spaces and inside public areas. One of the clearest expressions of innovation is in the architecture aft, styled as a ‘beach condominium’ inspired by the Miami waterfront, and featuring two panoramic glass elevators directly connecting the lower and upper decks. At the aft end of Deck 16, the glass-bottomed Bridge of Sighs forms a semi-circular structure extending out over the deck. The outdoor theme is also manifested in glass-floored catwalks on both sides of Deck 8. As with the owner’s entire cruise ship fleet, the electrical propulsion solution for MSC Seaside was provided by GE Marine, in its role as leader of the Italian project consortium responsible for powering arrangements. GE technology employed has included propulsion control, four 12.8MVA main transformers, variable frequency drive (VFD) core components, two synchronous, slow-speed propulsion motors and distribution transformers.
GE said that its system has eliminated the need for harmonic filters and reactive power consumption and therefore offers improved safety among other benefits. It is claimed to also ensure a less complicated installation and cabling process, and result in a reduced overall weight and simpler maintenance. The four main diesel generators are driven by Wärtsilä 46F-series medium-speed engines, whereby two of the aggregates are each powered at 16,800kW by 14-cylinder models, and two are fitted with 12-cylinder units delivering 14,400kW, such that the plant has a combined maximum continuous rating (MCR) of 62.4MW at 517rpm.
A total 40MW can be directed to main propulsion, whereby 20MW is exerted on each shaft through the GE electric motors, turning fixed pitch propellers at 123rpm. Due to the midships position of the propulsion motors, the shaft lines are longer with more support than on most ships. The propulsion system has been dimensioned to ensure a maximum speed of 21.3 knots. The considerable array of manoeuvring thrusters comprises four tunnel thrusters forward and three aft, each of 3.1MW. The duplication and distribution of primary machinery and associated systems in two main engine rooms confers redundancy and creates the basis for ensuring compliance with Safe Return to Port (SRtP) requirements. Two-hybrid scrubbers are installed in the forward engine room, providing the ship with the means to ensure compliance with the forthcoming global sulphur cap while continuing to burn heavy fuel oil (HFO). Supplied by Wärtsilä, the systems are used in open-loop mode at sea and closed-loop operation in harbour, with the wash water, then treated and held in shipboard tanks giving a 14-day storage capacity.
An automatic changeover procedure from HFO to marine gas oil (MGO), drawing the fuel from separate, dedicated tanks, is activated when the ship enters an Emission Control Area (ECA).
The twin-screw MSC Seaside has water-lubricated propeller shaft bearings, obviating the pollution risks of leakage from an oil-based system. The system comprises six Compact bearings in bronze carriers, with tapered keysets sized for the 664 mm shaft diameters. In addition to the environmental protection afforded, seawater-lubricated shafts are claimed to offer advantages as to bearing wear life predictability and reliability, easier installation and lower maintenance costs. For Compact systems used with shaft diameters of 300mm-plus in commercial new builds, Canadian manufacturer Thordon Bearings now issues a 15-year propeller shaft bearing wear life guarantee.
The cruise industry’s acknowledgement of the scope offered by individualised technology for improving or enhancing the cruising experience is demonstrated by several operators’ recent investments in passenger-assist devices such as those incorporating geo-location and facial recognition. MSC Cruises is to the fore in this sphere, and MSC Meraviglia provided the debut for the company’s digital innovation programme, MSC for Me, devised in cooperation with a number of leading digital, technical and behavioural science experts, including Deloitte Digital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Samsung Electronics. MSC Seaside is the second reference for the technology, which is to be rolled out across the fleet. The host of ‘smart’ features on offer, using the MSC for Me app, includes an interactive digital navigator that helps guests find their way around the ship, access information about different onboard areas, venues and excursions, make bookings and service requests, and allow parents to geo-locate their children on the vessel, using smartphones, tablets, computers, stateroom TVs, interactive screens and ‘smart’ bracelets. The app also employs ‘intelligent’ facial recognition to help staff in passenger-related duties. MSC Seaside is the company’s 14th addition to the fleet and the second delivery of 2017 after the completion by STX France of the MSC Meraviglia.