A New Cruise Ship Lexicon: SunStone, FleetPro and Waterland – Other Cruise News: TUI Cruises Orders Fourth Ship – UK Cruise Market Stalls But Holds

by Kevin Griffin

Last week came news of the formation of a new passenger ship owning company called SunStone Ships Inc, which will take over the shipowners’ representation functions presently performed by International Shipping Partners Inc of Miami. Included in this will be the promotion of ISP’s previous newbuilding project for eight 100-balcony cabin expedition ships capable of carrying 200 passengers, called Project Unlimited. At the same time came news out of both Miami and Basel of the formation of a new independent cruise ship management company. FleetPro Passenger Ship Management will have two branches, with ISP undertaking management of ocean-going ships from Miami and River Advice looking after inland vessels from Basel. Finance for the FleetPro organisation has come from Netherlands-based Waterland Private Equity, which already has a majority interest in A’Rosa River Cruises of Germany. Elsewhere, TUI Cruises has confirmed its option for a second newbuilding, Mein Schiff 4, from STX Finland in Turku, while the latest UK cruise statistics indicate a market whose growth has stalled, but is at least holding its own.

THIS WEEK’S STORY

A New Cruise Ship Lexicon: SunStone, FleetPro and Waterland

A new company, SunStone Ships Inc, has been formed to take over some of the existing passenger-ship activities of International Shipping Partners Inc (ISP) in Miami. The name SunStone has been chosen as the Norse sagas mention an early navigation device called the sun stone, which is thought to have been made from polarising crystals of calcite or Icelandic spar.

SunStone will assume the following activities from ISP:

– Owners’ representation of ISP-managed ships for purchase, sale and chartering.
– The eight-ship newbuilding project, Project Unlimited.
– Other newbuilding activities.
– Communication with investors and potential investors in passenger ships.
– Ship inspections in connection with potential acquisitions.
– Representation of investors in connection with sale or purchase of existing ships

Project Unlimited is a plan to build eight 200-berth 11,000-ton expedition ships, with all cabins having balconies (see The Cruise Examiner, November 22, 2011 for further details). According to the last week’s issue of shipping newspaper TradeWinds, an unnamed European shipyard has now been chosen to build these ships and export guarantee financing has been put in place to fund 80% of the newbuilding costs. It also reported that the first two orders could follow within months.

River cruise ships Switzerland moored in Basel - Photo Stefano Fermi

Simultaneously, it was announced that ISP will join FleetPro Passenger Ship Management to become purely a passenger ship management company. While SunStone and ISP will continue to occupy joint offices located in Miami, FleetPro has been formed with head office in Zug, Switzerland, and branch offices in Miami (ISP) and Basel, Switzerland (River Advice) and commenced operation on Thursday.

Fleetpro, with interests in both the ocean-going and river vessel markets, is now claimed to the world’s leading independent manager of passenger ships.

FleetPro unites River Advice, with 35 river cruise vessels under its management and 1,250 employees, and ISP, with 20 managed passenger ships, mainly in the luxury expedition sector, and 1,100 shore and ship-based personnel. The merger is supported by a private equity fund managed by Netherlands-based Waterland Private Equity Investments as majority shareholder.

A'Rosa Viva

A'Rosa Viva

Waterland already has a majority interest in Rostock-based A’Rosa River Cruises, which it acquired in 2009 when it supported a management buy-out from previous owners Deutsche Seereederei Rostock (DSR). Previous to its own acquisition by Hamburg-based Reederei F Laeisz in 1993, DSR had been the East German state-owned shipping company.

Among others, the River Advice-managed fleet includes ten river cruisers managed for Avalon Waterways plus a number of other river cruisers. On the other hand, the majority of ISP’s ships are in the expedition class, operating on charter to companies such as Quark Expeditions and One Ocean Expeditions, among others.

Rembrant

ISP also manages the river cruiser Rembrandt, on hire to UK-based Noble Caledonia, and its largest managed ship is the 35,855-ton 1,030-berth Bahamas Celebration, operating between West Palm Beach and the Bahamas for Celebration Cruise Line.

FleetPro ceo and Swiss national Robert Straubhaar opened River Advice in 2004 after having been involved with operators such as KD, Viking River Line, Uniworld and Grand Circle, and is joined on the FleetPro board by Danish national Niels-Eric Lund, ceo of ISP, who founded that company in 1988 after several years with Scandinavian World Cruises.

With more than 50 passenger ships now under management, FleetPro’s activities will be of interest to many owners, operators and charterers of river and ocean-going cruise vessels.

Waterland Private Equity’s involvement in FleetPro follows the September acquisition of French small ship owner and operator Compagnie du Ponant by London-based Bridgestone Capital. Another equity house, Apollo Management LP, owns Prestige Cruise Holdings, parent company of Oceania Cruises (acquired in April 2007) and Regent Seven Seas (February 2008), as well as a half interest in Norwegian Cruise Line, which it acquired from co-owner Genting Group in January 2008.

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

TUI Cruises Orders Fourth Ship

It was announced last week that Hamburg-based TUI Cruises will exercise its option for a second newbuilding, likely to be called Mein Schiff 4, from STX Finland’s Turku shipyard.

Mein Schiff I in Hamburg

TUI Cruises, which tailors cruises specifically for the German market, was formed in 2007 as a joint venture of Royal Caribbean Cruises and TUI Travel, which owns Thomson Cruises and in the UK, and is also associated with Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Quark Expeditions of Waterbury VT.

TUI Cruises first two ships, Mein Schiff 1 (2007), formerly Celebrity Galaxy, and Mein Schiff 2 (2011), formerly Celebrity Mercury, were acquired from Royal Caribbean affiliate Celebrity Cruises.

Mein Schiff 3, which was ordered in September 2011, is due to enter service in May 2014. Construction of the second newbuilding is scheduled to commence in the summer of 2013, for delivery in spring 2015.

TUI’s new ships will measure 99,300 tons, with a length of 968 feet (295 meters) and a beam of 118 feet (36 meters). Each ship will be capable of carrying 2,500 passengers in 1,250 staterooms, with 82% having private balconies, with a crew of 1,000. This is about 25% larger than the existing pair of ships that were acquired from Celebrity.

UK Cruise Market Stalls But Holds

The UK cruise statistics released by the Passenger Shipping Association last week estimate that 1.72million Brits will take an ocean cruise this year, compared to 1.70 million carried in 2011, a rise of 20,000 passengers or 1.2%.

Despite the publicity surrounding the loss of the 3,000-berth Costa Concordia in January and a depressed UK economic climate the market has still shown growth, although some individual lines are understood to be down on their 2011 figures. Still, according to the PSA, the cruise market has outperformed other holiday sectors in the UK market.

For 2013, the PSA predicts growth marginally above 2%, expecting 1.76 million passengers to take a cruise, based on more ships coming into the market, competitive cruise fares and increased offerings of ex-UK cruises.

Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International will both add ships from the UK in 2013, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s new 4,000-berth Norwegian Breakaway will perform her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on April 30.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ new 516-berth ultra-luxury Europa 2 will also undertake an inaugural mini-cruise from Southampton in early May.

And while P&O’s latest newbuilding is not scheduled to appear before 2015, cruisers will get a chance to sample a near sister ship when Princess Cruises’ 3,600-berth Royal Princess comes to Southampton next year for two 3-night inaugural cruises from Southampton, on June 10 and June 13, followed by her 7-night maiden voyage on June 16 from Southampton to Barcelona.

Thomson Cruises’ 1,250-berth Thomson Spirit will also be back in the UK in 2013, with sailings from both Harwich and Newcastle.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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