Curacao Carves A Cruise Niche
Riding the often tumultuous wares of freight rate boom and bust, Curacao Drydock has carved a unique niche of business in this Caribbean paradise. Since August 2000 the Curacao Drydock Company started to feel the effect of an improving cargo market. The amount of inquiries doubled since the first six months and the amount of bookings followed soon. Instead of patching of the ships, the owner decided to stop his ship for a few days to make sure the vessel is in good shape, ready to enter the better paid charter.
Times, though, have been different. In 1998 and 1999, the cargo market was so depressed that owners could not afford to carry out many repairs. The school of thought at this time was to keep the vessel trading as long as possi- ble. As the amount of work was not enough for the yard to survive, yard management decided to explore new markets. During the initial phase of investigation, it became apparent that there was a limited amount of capacity able to dry-dock the newer generation of cruise vessels.
Curacao's A-dock was built especially for the larger tankers calling on the local refinery during the 1970s and for economical reasons was built on a slope of 1:100. Cruise vessels of the newer generation, however, cannot make this condition, and this was one of the primary reasons the yard never pursued the cruise market. In addition, the yard was bustling with activity in the tanker, bulk carrier and container vessel segments. On March 23, 2000, Vision of the Seas entered Curacao Drydock for a repair period of 17 days. The major focus of the job was the replacement of a 40 tons stator of the propulsion motor. The job was completed within the allotted time frame, and the staff of Royal Caribbean left satisfied. From this repair, the yard learned much about the cruise market and its needs, and summarily plotted a course of investment to ensure it was prepared to meet these needs in the future. To adjust to the requirements of the larger cruise companies, management of the yard approved an investment plan that included four new generator sets, a fully automated switch board and a sewage plant. On this ship a fully automated Hammelmann Dockmaster was used for water blasting.