“Old [sea] dogs and new tricks”: Ulstein’s rapid adaption to market change.

In today’s still stormy shipping market, it’s worth recalling that Darwin’s famous theory of evolution was not ‘the survival of the fittest’ but was actually ‘the survival of the quickest to adapt to change’. This week’s SeaBlog is about the commercial application of this theory to the business of offshore ship design and building – not only to survive but also diversify into alternative and succesful customer markets.

Ulstein, well-known offshore vessel designers, builders and the ‘X-Bow’ creator, is based in Norway with 700 employees in seven countries and offices in Singapore. It is applying Darwin’s rapid adaption concept to overcome the huge challenges presented by the 2015 oversupply and collapse of oil prices. As we all know, the impact on the offshore exploration and drilling industries has been devastating. The knock-on effect on equipment suppliers, such as Rolls Royce Marine, and shipbuilders, including the Keppel yards in Singapore, has been equally damaging. However, through innovative thinking and alternative market sourcing, Ulstein appear to be turning the offshore downturn into a novel and potentially profitable opportunity.

Ulstein’s latest market drive and success is in the design and building of expedition mega yachts and ‘high end’ adventure cruise ships. Current projects include the refurbishment and accommodation upgrading of the adventure cruise vessel, “Sea Adventurer” in time for the June 2017 cruising season. Close attention will be paid to reducing the vessel’s ecological footprint to meet the expectations of environmentally aware passengers as well as full compliance with the IMO’s newly implemented Polar Code.

Another recent contract is for the co-design and build of an expedition mega-yacht which will be fitted with the now famous Ulstein X-BOW. Full details of the project cannot be revealed at this time but a fascinating preview of what Ulstein can create on the mega-yacht design and build front is available for viewing on the Ulstein website.

For those readers who may not be not aware of the features of the Ulstein X-BOW and now, the Ulstein X-STERN, it has to do with something very important all sailors know about. It’s called ‘sea-keeping’ which is a vessel’s in-built ability to proceed on passage comfortably and safely – along with her passengers and crew – in heavy weather conditions. The X-BOW shape – sometimes described as an ‘inverted bow’ – was developed by Ulstein to enhance ‘sea-keeping’. A short extract from the Ulstein X-BOW website page is as below.

“While a traditional bow vessel rises on the waves and then drops violently onto the surface of the water, an X-BOW vessel, less subject to the vertical motions induced by the waves, continues on course more smoothly, while maintaining its speed. And because it uses less fuel to get through the waves, it also helps to save energy.”

Does the X-Bow work? Well, over 100 X-BOW vessels have been built and ‘hands on’ testimonials from offshore masters and crews working these vessels in storm force conditions are well documented. So the answer is a resounding, YES!

In terms of Ulstein’s new leisure focused customers, sea sickness is a debilitating experience. Worse, heavy weather injuries can lead to big claims and even bigger costs for diverting a vessel to evacuate a crew member or passenger. It’s therefore easy to understand that the X-Bow is precisely what is needed to enhance the safety and comfort of both passengers on adventure cruises as well as the owners and their guests on board expedition mega-yachts. Ulstein’s cruise ship designs not only include the instantly recognisable X-Bow but also some futuristic features that certainly make their ships stand out from the crowd in any port in the world.

Ulstein’s ‘man in Singapore’ is Mr Gunnar Haug, Managing Director of Ulstein Asia Pte Ltd. Gunnar is a former naval officer and offshore ship master turned shipping executive. He has many years of experience with offshore market leaders including Consilium, Goltens, Kongsberg and now Ulstein in both Dubai and Singapore. Gunnar also heads Ulstein’s sales and marketing team for the Middle East and Asia.

SeaProf has been very fortunate to enjoy Gunnar’s past support as a speaker on the BI/SeaProf ‘Key Elements of Shipping’ course in Singapore. He has kindly volunteered to help us out again and we have just added him to our already terrific line-up of industry speakers and academics for the upcoming 21-23 March 2017 KES Course. Please check out the full details of the course, as well as the generous MCF training grants and PIC cash rebates that are available to eligible participants. For an easy to understand summary, see our Net Fees Calculation.


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