Ponant’s newbuilding director told PST about the new technology and features on the first of the Explorers-class vessels and the challenges in adding its world-first Blue Eye lounge
The first cruise ship of Ponant’s Explorers-class was delivered in June this year and has deployed a range of technology not seen in the luxury cruise operator’s other cruise ships – as well as the ‘Blue Eye’ underwater lounge, the first-of-its-kind in a cruise ship.
The ice-class vessel Le Lapérouse was built at Norway’s Vard Shipyard, a subsidiary of Fincantieri. At 131 m in length, it has 92 cabins and suites, with 110 crew members. The moderate size means the ship can access the most remote places.
The Blue Eye multi-sensorial underwater lounge is a world-first. Ponant explained it will allow passengers to discover and experience the underwater world via two portholes in the form of a cetaceous eye looking out on to the seabed, non-intrusive underwater lighting, hydrophones integrated into the keel that retransmit the “natural symphony of the deep water and body listening sofas, offering a unique sensorial listening experience by corporal resonance”.
Ponant newbuilding and R&D director Mathieu Petiteau told Passenger Ship Technology “Never before has such a thing been done, it is just incredible to me and a revolution in shipbuilding.”
He said creating the lounge within the hull involved a lot of challenges – the biggest was to demonstrate the strength of the complete system would provide the same safety level as using steel within the hull. Creating the Blue Eye lounge involved replacing some of the steel of the hull with glass. “We needed to demonstrate, in terms of grounding or ice navigation, there would not be less safety,” explained Mr Petiteau.
“It was the most difficult thing to demonstrate, but we believe now that the system is even stronger [then using steel in the hull].” He explained this was achieved by the “way the glass is integrated into the steel frame and how the steel frame was integrated into the hull”.
“We had to go through each individual material that composed this, we implemented all of these systems within the hull and looked at the impact on the window, we went far into the research and the design of this,” said Mr Petiteau. To this end, Ponant worked in close co-operation with the maker of the glass and with Hamburg University of Technology, which specialises in collision, materials and finite element modelling.
Bureau Veritas classed the vessel and its global market leader, passenger ships and ferries Andreas Ullrich agreed the most challenging item was the Blue Eye lounge, as it is the first cruise ship to have glass below the water line. “At 6 m it is very large,” he commented, adding “Originally class rules say you have to use steel, but here we did a risk assessment and a lot of tests to confirm that it is as safe as using steel.”
Energy efficiency focus
Elsewhere, energy efficiency was a key consideration for this vessel. The efficiency of the propeller has been boosted by using a variable pitch propeller within a variable speed propulsion model. Rolls-Royce provided the variable pitch propeller and the electric propulsion is provided by ABB. The set-up involves two shaft lines driven by electric motors, which have controllable pitch propellers at the end. “The use of controllable pitch improves the communication between the hull and the propeller,” said Mr Petiteau, explaining this would lead to fuel savings of approximately 3% annually.
The hull and the bulbous bow have been optimised, with the latter developed to suit low-speed travelling. This is a change for Ponant, as for its other cruise ships, the bulbous bow was developed to suit a speed above 16 knots. In contrast, Le Lapérouse has a maximum 15-knots speed and an operating speed of 10 knots. “So, we do not need a big bulbous bow made for a high-speed vessel,” said Mr Petiteau. “It is designed for low speed.” This change has boosted energy efficiency.
The electric models in the ship all meet the new electric EA3 standards, meaning their energy efficiency and environmental friendliness is a step up compared to previous cruise ships. “This design phase is a big improvement on Le Boreal and its sister ships, which meet the EA1 specifications, and means there is less electric consumption,” commented Mr Petiteau. This is important, given that there are approximately 100 electric motors on board, designed by ABB.
“Never before has such a thing been done, it is just incredible to me and a revolution in shipbuilding”
He pointed out the gap between the energy efficiency achieved by the latest EA3 standard compared to the previous EA1 is sizable: a medium-sized motor (5 kW) classed at EA3 achieved efficiency of 90%, compared to less than 85% for a motor classed at EA1.
Another major boost to the energy efficiency of the vessel is the implementation of a central heat recovery system. Ponant designed the solution with Vard. It recovers heat from the main engines which is then used for the hotel load, including air conditioning and for potable water. Mr Petiteau highlighted the significance “We had a basic one on board Le Boreal, used mainly for distillate water. This was used 5% of the time, but this system takes energy 100% of time from the engines.”
The company decided not to use scrubbers and has instead plumped for marine gasoil. “We don’t see scrubbers as real environmentally friendly pieces of equipment; they are just removing sulphur from the exhaust gas, but the sulphur is still somewhere and is either dispersed to seawater or stored on board to be discharged ashore – and nobody wants it.”
Another disadvantage, he said, was that scrubbers consume “much more energy” to carry out their tasks. “The ship is producing more CO2 to remove the sulphur. If you look at the global long-term efficiency of this system, it is not good at all.”
Brand new features
Other environmentally friendly measures include complete treatment of all fuel sludge carried out on board. The company has invested in a new generation of Alfa Laval’s pure bilge oily water separator for bilge water treatment, avoiding discharge of bilge water. “We are able to treat everything on board in a very efficient manner,” Mr Petiteau said, adding this was a new addition to the fleet.
Another new feature the first in the Explorers-class adds to Ponant’s fleet is the Green Pilot system, which is used to save energy. Sensors measure the exact fuel consumption of every engine. Mr Petiteau commented “It will give us very accurate fuel meter consumption, which means we will know exactly the fuel consumption of every engine, which will allow development of decisions about which engines to start and stop, in order to work out the most effective way to save fuel.” The system was developed by Vard Electro.
Ponant has also added equipment to save HVAC costs. “Lots of passengers want to keep their balcony doors open, while the air conditioning is still on in the room,” commented Mr Petiteau. To overcome this challenge, sensors send a signal that the door has been opened and to reduce the air conditioning, placing the system in economy mode. “It is a simple but effective solution,” said Mr Petiteau.
An innovative environmentally friendly solution has been applied to the refrigeration solutions. For the first time, Ponant is using a refrigerant that has a lower global warming potential than standard. “This has not been an easy thing,” said Mr Petiteau. “It is difficult to find this type of gas and it costs more as the compressor needs to be modified to be able to work with this refrigerant.”
The same engines have been used as on Le Boreal and its sister ships – four Wartsila 8L20 engines with eight cylinders each. The only change represented by the engines is that they are now compliant with IMO Tier 3 regulations, because they are now fitted with selective catalytic reduction system (SCR) to reduce NOx concentration in the exhaust gas. The addition of SCR was a challenge because they “take space in the tank plan of the ship, which is quite a challenge and for such a small vessel this is not easy at all.”
Le Lapérouse received the international Cleanship notation from Bureau Veritas as a result of the environmentally friendly equipment used. The class society said the criteria for its notation are: limitation of sea pollution stowage on board, ability to transfer ashore, diminution in release of polluting substances into seawater such as hydrocarbons, sewage, noxious products, garbage, grey and black water. Limitation of air pollution levels of greenhouse and ozone-depleting product emissions are limited and checked.
In terms of design, it was important for Ponant to “go further” with a yachting design than before.
“We really want our passengers to feel like they are on board a private yacht,” explained Mr Petiteau.
It also has two more distinct features: a marina has been deployed to allow guests to have close contact with the sea. At the back of the ship, a large hatch opens up to allow a ‘huge platform’ to be deployed. This platform can be adjusted to any level and can even go to 1 m below the sea. “It is a very customised design and designed by Ponant to allow customers to have close contact with the sea,” said Mr Petiteau.” While such a platform has been used before on small yachts, it has never before been used on cruise ships.
Ponant has also developed a lighting system. It developed an integrated solution for 28 spotlights on the back of the hull to light up the bottom of the sea. LED technology is used.
Le Laperouse features a reinforced hull for polar exploration, five passenger decks, a fleet of Zodiacs for excursions and transfers and an 188-seat theatre. Each ship will have 88 balcony staterooms and four suites with bay windows and private terraces.
Mathieu Petiteau (Ponant)
Mathieu Petiteau started his career at Ponant as chief engineer/shipbuilding cruise ship consultant in 2009, where he was site manager for the building survey of the luxury cruise ship L'Austral, assistant site manager for the building survey of Le Boreal and chief engineer for both ships. In 2011, he was project manager and site manager for building Le Soleal and Le Lyrial. He was appointed newbuilding director in 2015 and since December 2017 has been both newbuild and research and development director. Previous to Ponant, he was commissioning manager at STX France, and prior to that, first engineer at Services et Transport.
Length: 131 m
Passenger capacity: 184
Class: Bureau Veritas