Our most expansive support agreement yet

Wärtsilä’s long-term agreement with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) is the most extensive maintenance and technical support partnership we have formed with a marine customer yet. “Although we have been working with RCL and its predecessors for more than 40 years, the new agreement covers more vessels and involves much more detailed operational planning than our previous partnerships,” explains Leif Rönnskog, Wärtsilä’s Vice President for Strategic Account Management.

The maintenance support agreement covers 29 cruise ships owned by RCL, operating the cruise brands Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises. “The main idea behind the new deal is that Wärtsilä will organise the work that needs to be done on the ship engines, leaving RCL to concentrate on its core business – looking after cruise guests.” Wärtsilä can provide maintenance services for marine installations all around the world, from its operations in 160 ports in 70 countries.

The ships covered by the agreement have 118 Wärtsilä engines in all, with an output of approximately 1400 MW. “Most of these are Wärtsilä 46 engines,” Rönnskog tells us, “which we see as the workhorse of the global cruise business.” Wärtsilä’s Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) engine monitoring systems also enable the performance of individual engines to be monitored online anywhere in the world. Rönnskog points out that the new collaboration with RCL will take related monitoring and reporting procedures to the next level.

Regular engine condition reports can be sent automatically to Wärtsilä and to customers’ operational offices using an easily understood “traffic light system”. Green lights mean that everything is running smoothly, amber shows where maintenance measures should soon be taken, and red means that corrective action is needed urgently.

After overall reliability in terms of keeping ships sailing, energy efficiency is the most important consideration in dealings between cruise firms and technical service providers. “Fuel costs are a huge part of the running costs of a cruise operator like RCL, amounting to several hundred million dollars a year,” says Rönnskog. “Closer collaboration on maintenance, including the recording of annual reference measurements for the fuel economy of each engine, can certainly help us find innovative new ways to reduce and optimise fuel consumption.”

Working more closely together with the customer can greatly speed up the identification and realisation of investments that will generate significant improvements in fuel economy – often with very rapid payback-on-investment times.

Investments are also needed to meet ever-tighter environmental controls. Emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides are central to the planning of engine maintenance. Rönnskog explains that Wärtsilä and RCL are already collaborating closely to find ways to reduce emissions and meet the challenges posed by demands for cruise lines to use more environmentally sound fuels.

Through the new agreement, Wärtsilä’s own personnel will also provide on-board supervision and training for RCL’s own crews. The new deal includes harmonising and aligning procedures within both companies to facilitate streamlined scheduling and accurate budgeting by eliminating uncertainties.

Wärtsilä and RCL are both convinced that by combining their knowledge and experience, this new kind of cooperation will bring concrete benefits in terms of the optimised availability of ships and improvements in fuel economy.

“This type of long-term maintenance support agreement has previously been more common on the energy side of our business at Wärtsilä, but we’re very pleased to be asked to make such a commitment on the marine side too,” Rönnskog enthuses.

The whole process of shaping this groundbreaking agreement has taken a full year and involved dozens of people from both companies. “We ran a series of detailed workshops focusing on issues like fuel economy, engine component lifetime, logistics and overhauls. This enabled everyone from both sides to learn about each other’s needs. Everyone involved at Wärtsilä and RCL is excited about this new page in our common history.”

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