UK cruise business integrates navigation, automation, propulsion management and safety systems on its new US$400M Spirit-class ships
Multiband satellite communications, integrated navigation systems and onboard wifi networks are important sub-systems of Saga Cruises’ new Spirit-class passenger ships, but the safety management system is seen as a vital component.
The first of two new 999-passenger, €350M (US$400M) boutique cruise ships, ordered from Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany entered service for the UK-headquartered shipowner in June 2019. 236-m long, 58,250-gt Spirit of Discovery arrived at its home port of Dover, UK, for the first time on 28 June 2019.
A second ship, to be named Spirit of Adventure, is scheduled to enter service in Q3 2020. Both ships will have a safety monitoring and control system (SMCS) integrated into the ship automation and navigation systems.
Saga Cruises newbuild director David Pickett tells Maritime Digitalisation & Communications on board Spirit of Discovery that the SMCS is the most important part of the ship. “The SMCS provides a complete overview of ship safety systems from the bridge,” he says. “It is the umbrella for fire-fighting and detection, closed circuit security video, watertight door operation and flood sensor fire doors. It allows us to manage any potential incidents,” Mr Pickett explains. “Most of our development work was on the SMCS with a touchscreen workstation.”
The SMCS is an incident management digital display with decision support functions. Each Spirit-class cruise ship has four electronic mustering stations that enable officers to manage passengers during an incident.
“We are able to quickly register guests through these four e-mustering stations and can compare this with the manifest to see who is missing,” says Mr Pickett. Each station is a self-supporting system with iPads that provide a local and whole-ship view.
Navigation safety was also a top priority for Saga in deciding on the integrated bridge systems’ deployment and operations.
The shipowner wanted navigation, automation, engine, power management and safety management systems to communicate without conflicts or issues. It took advice from classification society Lloyd’s Register and the UK flag authorities and from its experienced officers, particularly marine and safety design manager Tuula Aer.
Saga then selected Kongsberg Maritime to supply and integrate the systems throughout the Spirit-class ships.
On the bridge, this included dual ECDIS, speed pilot, track pilot and a digital navigation workstation. For tracking hazards and surrounding ship traffic, these ships have S-band and X-band main radar, and stern radar, says Mr Pickett.
Also on the bridge are controls for the ship’s propulsion and manoeuvring thrusters and engine management. This includes the first use of Siemens ESiPods on large passenger ships for forward propulsion and Brunvoll transverse thrusters for docking.
Spirit-class ships have four, nine-cylinder 32/44 common rail MAN engines, each producing 5,400 kW, with selective catalytic reduction equipment allowing the vessels to be Tier III NOx compliant and four Yara-supplied hybrid open-close loop scrubbers for sulphur removal.
Ship communications is also an important sub-system on Saga’s Spirit-class cruise ships, which is why there is redundancy for ship-to-shore connectivity and media services.
Saga selected Cobham Satcom to supply dual-band VSAT antennas and below-deck terminal equipment.
This included two 2.4-m antennas for connectivity using C- and Ku-band and two TV receive-only antennas for Ku- and Ka-band services. “We have complete redundancy in these systems,” says Mr Pickett.
OmniAccess provides the VSAT coverage using constellations of geostationary orbit satellites. When Spirit of Discovery is in port or close to shore, its communications can switch to coastal and terrestrial 3G, 4G and 5G (when available) mobile phone networks, says Mr Pickett. The ship also has GMDSS safety and emergency communications and VHF radio to contact other ships and shore centres.
“We have wifi throughout with a strong signal everywhere”
Onboard connectivity is provided through wide area and local area networks supplied by Lufthansa Industry Solutions. Passengers can use their mobile and smart devices using the onboard wireless system. “We manage our own wifi distribution on the ship,” says Mr Pickett.
“We have wifi throughout with a strong signal everywhere,” he explains. “It is a free service that allows access to social media, internet browsing and email, but not streaming.”
“Technology is an enabler that lets people enjoy what they want to do, including bookings, using their own smart devices,” says Mr Pickett.
This is accomplished through the onboard guest experience platform and infotainment system, supplied by Getslash. “Our infotainment includes video-on-demand, broadcast TV, video of films and sport, plus information on ship position, onboard services and an information channel,” says Mr Pickett.
Remote diagnostics and condition-based maintenance
All of the safety, navigation, automation, systems management and infotainment had to be from well-established providers that had tested this technology, says Saga chief operations officer Nigel Blanks.
“We needed tried and tested technology for the automation so that it met regulations, was proven and would work from the start,” he explains from the lounge on Spirit of Discovery.
Onboard automation, engine and power management systems needed to connect with Saga’s strategy for condition-based maintenance on the ships’ propulsion systems. “We are proactive in maintenance planning,” says Mr Blanks.
Connectivity with ship VSAT will enable shore-based engineers to diagnose onboard issues before they become faults and impact ship performance. “We were looking for through-life maintenance systems from MAN and Siemens, with remote diagnostics capabilities,” says Mr Blanks.
“We wanted to optimise the efficiency of ship systems and to be able to replace equipment before it breaks down.”
Saga worked with V.Ships Leisure for the technical management of its Spirit-class ships. “We are with V.Ships in offices in Southampton, UK, so our deck and technical teams work together,” says Mr Blanks.
Saga uses V.Ships’ software for technical management of its ships and its crewing services for the deck and technical officers.
V.Ships was also responsible for training these officers so they would be ready to serve effectively on the new cruise ships. “Training the masters and chief officers involved simulator training on programs modelled on these new ships,” says Mr Blanks.
Spirit of Adventure is due to be delivered by Meyer Werft in Q3 2020. After this, Saga could consider ordering more cruise ships for the UK market.
“We would like to build something later,” he says. “A decision will depend on how successful these ships are. But, we could look to increase the fleet further,” Mr Blanks continues.
“There are no plans now, but we will continue to dream – and dreams can come true.”
Snapshot CV: David Pickett
Saga Cruises newbuild director David Pickett has a long background in shipbuilding and marine architecture after starting his career as an apprentice in Vosper Thornicroft shipyard in Southampton’s design office in the 1990s. He gained a degree in London and joined P&O Princess in the marine design and engineering department. He took charge of cruise ship newbuilding, leading the construction of cruise ships Arcadia, Britannia, Ventura and Azura. After this, he joined Saga to develop the Spirit class of ships.
Spirit of Discovery particulars
Owner: Saga Cruises
Builder: Meyer Werft, Germany
Classification: DNV GL
Port of Registry: London
Length: 236 m
Gross tonnes: 58,250 gt
Satcoms: OmniAccess/Cobham Satcom