Carnival Corp has combined vessel monitoring technology and human expertise to keep track of its fleet of cruise ships, writes Ed Martin
Carnival Corp monitors and manages a fleet of 37 cruise ships from its new Fleet Operations Centre (FOC) in Hamburg, Germany. When Passenger Ship Technology visited this centre, it looked similar to a NASA mission control room, with banks of monitors on rows of desks facing a screen that takes up an entire wall, all busy with data.
This is perhaps apposite, given that the FOC was set up with the goal of providing “aviation-level safety standards” with around-the-clock, year-round monitoring for a fleet of 37 vessels. It is staffed by 15 officers with nautical experience working in three-person shift patterns.
They monitor and analyse data from a range of sources and are in constant contact with captains and crews to oversee the Costa group’s 26 vessels under the Costa Crociere, Aida Cruises and Costa Asia brands, plus 11 vessels from P&O Cruises and Cunard Line. Costa’s proprietary digital and navigation and surveillance platform, Neptune, gathers a range of data from each vessel including:
Data on position, speed and direction is used to ensure vessels are not straying from a predetermined course corridor. Any deviations from these voyages results in a real-time notification to the FOC, resulting in an immediate investigation into the cause.
Neptune ensures vessels are in compliance with company, national and international environmental regulations by automatically reporting any deviation from targeted values.
Almost 2M bits of data are collected by Neptune from each vessel each day, which are used for immediate and longer-term analyses to identify trends and optimise forecast models.
This allows for predictive analysis to improve maintenance of vessels and their engines, optimise resources and automatically predict efficient routes. As well as this, external information such as weather forecasts, port infrastructure issues, health risks and reports of political unrest are used to adjust routeing and departure times to ensure vessel safety.
Should an incident arise, regardless of whether it relates to passenger safety, engineering issues or a vessel’s arrival at or departure from a port, a crisis meeting is held where staff at the FOC and aboard the vessel will review all available information to determine the best course of action and how to enact it.
The Hamburg facility opened in 2015 and complementary facilities were opened in Seattle in 2017 and in Miami earlier this year. They are all individually capable of acting as FOC for Carnival’s entire fleet of 103 cruise ships, should the need arise.
The cruise ships are connected to the FOCs over VSAT communications, which Carnival is steadily upgrading on its ships. Carnival is deploying its MedallionNet broadband-at-sea system on cruise ships to boost bandwidth for operational requirements, passenger use and crew welfare.
Cruise ships in the fleet already have bandwidth of more than 20 Mbps through Ku-band and C-band VSAT. Some are also using Ka-band from SES’ medium Earth orbit O3B constellation.
Carnival is upgrading VSAT on ships in the Princess Cruises brand to boost bandwidth well beyond 50 Mbps levels. It started with Regal Princess in 2017 and this broke the bandwidth-at-sea record in February this year by reaching 2.25 Gbps during a specific media-driven event. In March, Carnival’s chief experience and innovation officer John Padgett told MEC that MedallionNet will be installed on more Princess ships and then introduced to other brands in the group.
In May, Costa Crociere successfully tested a new IT element on a cruise ship bridge that enables crew to better understand the vessel’s trim. The test involved Eniram Trim functionality on Wärtsilä Marine Solutions’ integrated navigation systems, Nacos Platinum, on cruise ship Costa Atlantica.
Eniram Trim enabled the bridge team to immediately respond to changing conditions to maintain an optimum trim of the cruise ship in real-time. Wärtsilä has added this trim function to its Nacos Platinum control system for navigation, automation and dynamic positioning.
Eniram Trim analysis is based on a model of a vessel’s hydrodynamic characteristics, the information gathered by attitude sensors installed on the ship’s hull, and the vessel’s automation and bridge systems. The input gained enables Eniram Trim to calculate the optimal trim in real-time, which leads to lower fuel consumption and greater cost savings than is possible with conventional trimming methods.