How DB Schenker helps the world’s cruise lines get their ships in the water, keeps those vessels operational, and provides a full suite of logistics support as those majestic ships travel the world.
Keeping a modern cruise ship supplied, operational, and on the water is no small task. Just last weekend, for example, one cruise line called on DB Schenker to help shepherd a critical shipment of spare parts from Poland to Miami, by way of Munich. The ship was only going to be in port until 5pm on Saturday, and the spare parts shipment was delayed in Germany.
Springing into action, DB Schenker’s Cruise Line Logistics team worked with the cruise line and a freight provider to come up with a Plan B, just in case the cargo didn’t make it on time. Scheduled to visit Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba, the ship could function for a day or two without the spare parts. Knowing this, DB Schenker arranged for the parts to be flown from Miami to Aruba, where they would be delivered to the ship before its return trip to Ft. Lauderdale.
Carlos Villegas, DB Schenker Business Development Manager, says this is par for the course for a provider of world-class cruise logistics services. “This happens a lot,” he says. “If the shipment doesn’t get there on time, we basically have to follow the ship.” In some cases, a weather-related event or even a diverted cruise itinerary can throw the whole supply chain a curveball.
In some cases, the ships are also limited in terms of the size and weight that they can receive. Orchestrating these moves requires precision timing in an industry where late or incorrect deliveries can have a profound impact on a guest’s cruise experience and, subsequently, the company’s profitability.
“Those ships travel the world, so anything that happens—a typhoon in Japan, a hurricane in the Caribbean, political instability in a region—impacts the freight delivery process,” says Villegas. “It’s up to us to find out where the ship is going next and then divert that cargo so it gets to where it needs to be.”
Introducing the Expedition Ships
Once relegated to certain “cruise ports” that were used by many different ship operators, cruise lines have since broken out of that shell and are offering more unique and unusual experiences to their repeat clientele. “More companies are moving toward using small ports and expeditions, versus larger ships just doing 7-night Caribbean cruises,” says Villegas. “They know the second- or third-time cruiser is looking for a different experience.”
As part of that shift, the operators are building ships that are “experiences” in and of themselves. They’re creating exciting new destination that can only be visited by water. Those new destinations not only need to be built, but they also have to be stocked, maintained, and kept up to date. Concurrently, older ships are continually being refurbished to look and feel more like their newer counterparts.
“Whether they’re building new ships, outfitting new islands, or redoing their older vessels, cruise lines need a lot of logistics and transportation support,” says Villegas. Once operational, these entities also need ship-side support for every voyage, spare parts to keep their vessels operating properly, and myriad other items (e.g., furniture, artwork, supplies, etc.) that in many cases have to delivered when the ship is en route.
That’s where DB Schenker steps in to help. “If a vessel is on a 7-day voyage and stops at five different ports,” says Villegas, who credits the company’s global network with serving as the foundation for its vast array of cruise-related logistics services, “we just go wherever they tell us to go.”
Ready for More
DB Schenker’s logistics capabilities go beyond just getting goods from Point A to Point B on time and in good condition. They also include a streamlined, tech-enabled procurement and tracking process that cruise and marine customers use to maintain good supply chain visibility from anywhere. Using a customized, purchase order (PO) management platform, for example, customers can track their goods as they move around the world by air, land, or sea.
Looking ahead, Villegas says DB Schenker will be concentrating on newly-built ships, refurbishments, dry dock, and related projects in 2020. “We’re focusing on new ships that are being built and making sure that all of their requirements are being met,” he says. One ship takes roughly two years to build, for example, during which time parts are shipped from manufacturers located around the world to the construction site. The same process happens when a ship goes into dry dock for an overhaul.
Villegas says DB Schenker is ready to serve these and other cruise line needs in 2020 and beyond. “We can deliver everything that the cruise lines need to either widen a vessel, remodel its guest rooms, or refurbish its gaming area,” says Villegas.