Design collaboration recognises the important role Chinese shipyards will play in refitting and building ships for the post-pandemic Asian cruise market
The booming Asian cruise market combined with pent up consumer demand for post-pandemic cruising will result in more shipowners working with Chinese yards, predicts Tillberg Design of Sweden (TDoS) group chief executive Stefan Nilsson.
Following the announcement of the collaboration between TDoS and Shanghai Merchant Ship Design and Research Institute (SDARI), Mr Nilsson tells Passenger Ship Technology “With more cruise lines planning to cruise to China and Asia it makes sense for ships to be refitted or built there.”
In February, TDoS entered into a framework co-operation letter of intent (LOI) with SDARI, China’s leading ship design house. SDARI is part of China State Shipbuilding Corporation Group (CSSC), which became the world’s largest shipbuilding group following the 2019 merger of CSSC and CSIC (China Shipbuilding Industrial Corporation). The LOI will cover co-operation in joint ship design projects for various types of vessels ranging from passenger cruise ships to eco-friendly river ferries.
TDoS says the LOI provides both companies with a three-fold opportunity to combine their respective areas of expertise to provide customers with a valued experience proposition, lift the design capabilities of ship designs in China and create a ‘one-stop-shop’ for would-be shipowners refitting their ships and building new ones in China.
Mr Nilsson says Covid-19 has played a part in accelerating the position of China in the shipbuilding industry. He tells PST “There are a lot of shipowners looking at Chinese yards now. The current pandemic situation has catalysed this process for Chinese yards to play an increasing role in ship construction.”
Bringing interior design to new level
“TDoS will play a pivotal role to enhance and bring the level of design to a higher level. TDoS has vast experience in how ships operate, user experience, optimised flows and continued innovation in design and technology, which can be an integral part of the build-up of the cruise industry in China. In the TDoS network, all non-inhouse expertise can be utilised as well. We shall expect interesting challenges and opportunities ahead, but that is why we are here.”
In the lead up to the collaboration, TDoS was engaged in talks with CSSC and SDARI for more than a year to enable both parties to learn and understand the respective scope of their strengths.
Mr Nilsson adds “SDARI has been very strong in technical designs, while our strengths lie as a partner in shipbuilding and designs. Both CSSC-CSIC were busy working on their merger and their re-organisation was completed in November 2019. Being the largest shipyard in the world, and planning to add cruise and sightseeing vessels into their portfolio for ship construction, they have recognised TDoS as the global front-runner in these aspects. Thus this LOI came to light. TDoS hopes to be a partner in shipbuilding and design in China and to lift the level of expertise in China with our participation.”
Turning to the importance of working in China and developing relationships with Chinese companies, he points to the rapid development of the cruise sector in Asia, which in recent years has seen brands including Costa Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International expand their programmes and deploy dedicated ships to homeport in Asia.
Furthermore, the joint venture between CSSC and Carnival Corporation - CSSC Carnival Cruise Shipping Limited - will result in the world’s first two new cruise ships built in China for the Chinese cruise market, the first of which is scheduled to be delivered in 2023. Additionally, China has acquired a pair of ships for domestic cruise operations; P&O Cruise’s Oriana which was purchased in 2019 and renamed Piano Land and the 2020 acquisition of Princess Cruise’s Sea Princess which is being renamed Charming.
Mr Nilsson says “Post-pandemic, China will be an important cruise market. The pandemic has sped up the ‘wants’ of the Chinese to build their own domestic cruise industry. Buying secondhand ships for refits and building their own has become a reality. The eco-system with the supporting industry in the cruise sector has been changing and improving quickly in China, with important partners coming into this market to facilitate this.”
With regards to the new collaboration attracting business away from European yards to China and intensifying competition between shipyards, TDoS says with the strong demand for cruising, coupled with the sale and subsequent recycling of older vessels due to Covid-19, all shipyards will be kept busy to meet global refitting and shipbuilding requirements.
Mr Nilsson explains “Increased competition is healthy for any industry. With the Chinese yards available, with progressive improvements in technical know-how, shipowners will have more options to choose from. Most signs in the industry imply that the demand for cruising remains strong post-pandemic and with fewer ships around, it is likely that demand will surpass supply by late 2022 to early 2023.”
He says with that in mind, more new ships will be needed, and with an expected significant demand increase in China and Asia as a whole, the demand for new ships will require capacity from both European and Asian yards, as well as the refitting yards in the Americas.
When the LOI was signed, SDARI chief engineer Wang Gangyi said “TDoS will become a close partner of SDARI and as co-designers, will give full play to their respective advantages and carry out extensive co-operation in interior design and marketing of cruise ships, high-end ropax vessels and sightseeing ships, promoting a win-win situation for both sides.”
Looking to the future Mr Nilsson concludes “This is the onset of our TDoS presence in China and Asia. We believe there will be further collaborations in this vast country in the near future. TDoS will become, and continue to be for the foreseeable future, a pivotal partner in shipbuilding and design for the Chinese cruise industry.”
Riviera will provide free technical and operational webinars in 2021. Sign up to attend on our events page