Monday, May 14, 2007

Paddle wheeler runs aground

What is it with royalty in the North ? Here is story from CTV news of a pocket cruiser running aground in Icy Straits, near the native village of Hoonah, in southern Alaska. Nice area but I do believe its pretty tight between shoals and rocks. I was there with RCCL, we had to drop anchor quite a ways away then tender in. Very pretty spot though, with a renovated cannery (my picture below) and interesting commercial fishing displays.

Majestic press release is brief and goes like this...

"Majestic America Line announced that the vessel Empress of the North was involved in a grounding incident in South East Alaska at 1:40 am local time approximately 50 miles from Juneau. There are no injuries reported. All guests were safely transferred to an Alaska state ferry for transportation to Juneau where arrangements to accommodate them have been made."


Passengers OK after Alaskan cruise ship evacuated
Mon. May. 14 2007, News Staff

A cruise ship carrying 281 people was successfully evacuated after it ran aground off the coast of Alaska Monday.

The 109-metre Empress of the North collided with a rock at the southern end of the Icy Strait -- 25 kilometres southwest of Juneau.

Chief Petty Officer Barry Lane told The Associated Press that the vessel, with 29 crew members still aboard, was now heading back toward Juneau.

"The story is shaping up for the good," Lane said. No injuries were reported in the incident.

Petty Officer Christopher McLaughlin told AP that a plane and helicopter were dispatched after an emergency radio call came in at 12:35 a.m. on Monday.

A commercial tug and barge and about 40 other vessels -- including fishing boats and other cruise ships -- assisted in rescuing the passengers.

The Empress of the North has 112 staterooms and a three-storey paddlewheel. Majestic America is operated as a division of Ambassadors Cruise Group.

The grounding occurred on the second day of a seven-day cruise.

With files from The Associated Press

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Seafarer shortage

Cash ‘not answer to crewing crisis’
23 March 2007 Lloyds List

PAYING “top dollar” seafarer salaries does not guarantee loyalty and is not the answer to the industry’s crewing crisis, according to a panel of experts, writes Rajesh Joshi.

The way to redress the problem is to foster lifelong “contracts” with seafarer recruits that build on career development, the panel at the Connecticut Maritime Association conference concluded.

Bob Bishop, chief executive of V.Ships Shipmanagement, told the Manning Strategies panel that the intractable challenges of attracting and retaining crews needed a radically creative approach that recognised the importance of email and communication links with mariners’ families.

The days of putting out to sea with no contact with the outside world for weeks or months on end were over, Mr Bishop said.

Today’s new generation expected to be “connected” with its family and friends every day, and this reality needed to be addressed.

Mr Bishop cited many reasons why the “romanticism” of going to sea had faded.

These included higher regulation, visa issues, criminalisation, cultural issues involving multinational crews and higher retirement levels, enveloped in the bigger challenge posed by more lucrative land-based employment opportunities.

Simply paying more in seafarer salaries was not the answer, he stressed. Instead, V.Ships sought to address reality by offering recruits a guarantee of a lifelong job if they so desired, wrapped into a clearly defined career development path.

The assurance of emails and internet use was an integral component of the company’s approach.

V.Ships had a goal of increasing its world-leading pool of 23,500 seafarers to 60,000 by 2010, Mr Bishop declared.

To this end, the company was placing greater emphasis on having cadets on board its managed ships, a number expected to rise from the present 765 to 1,500-2,000.

He identified the US and Canada as crew supply markets “worth revisiting” as the wage gap with the developing world narrowed.

In a strictly US con text, Overseas Shipholding Group’s vice-president for marine labour relations, Norm Gauslow, echoed the substance of Mr Bishop’s comments.

OSG’s 16 product tanker newbuilding programme in Philadelphia and six articulated tug barge newbuilding programme in Alabama had thrown up the need for 1,000 new seafarers ranging from entry-level unlicensed crew to middle and senior-level officers, Mr Gauslow said.

OSG was prepared for this challenge with a recruitment strategy that would promise entrants more than just the cash.

The company’s focus would be on defining clear career paths for seafarers, he said. a related story...

Classification society’s study says downward trend of recent years “is about to turn”, writes Rajesh Joshi in Connecticut, 22 March 2007 Lloyds List

GROWING incompetence among crews, possibly brought on by new recruits, poor retention and overworked seafarers, could be the reason behind an increase in the frequency of serious maritime accidents since the start of the new century, Det norske Veritas has said.

Data released by the Norwegian classification society at the Connecticut Maritime Association conference purports to show that while accident figures today are half of what they were in the late 1980s, “the trend is about to turn”.

This reversal has been clearly felt and seen since the start of the present decade, according to DNV data.

Tor Svensen, chief operating officer of DNV Maritime, told Lloyd’s List that this unwelcome reversal of the trend could plausibly be attributed to a “loss of competence” among crews, linked with stress and fatigue but not necessarily attributable to fewer crew members per ship.

The link with reduced competence was only a theory, Mr Svensen stressed.

Nevertheless, figures compiled by DNV on navigational accident frequency for large containerships, ro-ros and crude as well as chemical tankers that date back to 1987 show a downward trend until 2001, followed by an increase from that point on.

Even the tanker segment, with its vaunted focus on safety, has reported more accidents than five years ago, DNV’s study notes.

The society says collisions, standing and contact damage are areas of high concern and the figures belie higher technical and transparency standards in the industry today.

Dr Espen Cramer, head of DNV Maritime Solutions, said in a statement: “In sum, the general level of experience on board vessels has been reduced. There are more new recruits, less retention and faster promotion.

“In addition, onboard workloads with respect to paperwork and inspections have increased while crew size is stable. Loss of experience is a stress factor for those... who have to continuously train newer crew members.”

Although shipping is going through relatively healthy economic times, it has to contend with increased demand for seafarers and loss of manpower to other industries, DNV’s study notes. Dr Cramer suggests “more focus on crew on board and management onshore” as a way to reduce accidents.

“The crew has to be more involved in safety and management has to demonstrate more commitment to safety,” he advises.

“In that respect, shipping still has more to learn from industries such as offshore and aviation.”

Headline ship casulties

Another insightful article from Lloyd's List Michael Grey...

Glut of disasters shows technology cannot erase risk
Viewpoint Michael Grey, 23 April 2007 Lloyds List

THE sea, it seems, never loses its capacity to spring a surprise upon those who live by it, a fact that is given a certain amount of additional pungency by a cheering reminder by that celebrated US lawyer Dennis Bryant.

Yesterday, he says, when I was sitting in the garden thinking vaguely about this column, was the anniversary of the loss of the Titanic.

But 2007 shows every inclination of being a bad one for maritime casualties. Just over a quarter of the year has elapsed and already we have lost a very big containership, rolled over a 38,000 tonne ro-ro, consigned a fairly modern passenger ship to the depths, and seen a supply boat carrying out a routine anchor handling operation capsize in tragic circumstances.

And there have been plenty more besides, although these are what might be described as the “headline” losses.

It has thus far been an even spread between shipping sectors, making a change from a fierce focus on tankers, which always attract the headlines, or bulker casualties, which lend themselves to easy categorisation.

It is perhaps the element of surprise which leaps out of all these losses. Everyone knows that containerships have been hugely increased in size since the robust and long-living first generation vessels, but everyone was hugely taken aback by the near loss of the MSC Napoli, which appears to have opened up under the engineroom like a tin can, and bent like the proverbial banana.

If there ever was a category of ship design that was considered to be largely trouble-free (other than from exploding boxes), it was containerships. And how does one manage to roll over the very large ro-ro Repubblica di Genova —state of the art when she was built —lying safely alongside a dock in Antwerp?

It took everyone by surprise, to put it mildly, although it was a huge relief that the crew managed to scramble safely ashore and no dockers were involved.

There was perhaps less of a mystery about the Sea Diamond, which tragically seems to have drowned two passengers after she ran onto the rocks at Santorini. Bodged navigation seems to have been the cause of the grounding, but the real surprise was the speed of the sinking, in a ship that was supposed to be sub-divided like a honeycomb, with watertight doors a-plenty.

But maybe nobody shut them. If they were so taken by surprise at the eventual sinking, perhaps they were indeed a trifle leisurely about the evacuation of the 1,600 people aboard.

Where is the “state of the art” damage control that passengership operators like to tell us is available to them?

Similarly, the tragedy of the Bourbon Dolphin, carrying out the very function that she was designed for, illustrates the way in which the totally unexpected might intervene. Seasoned anchor handler skippers professed their disbelief at the way in which the craft appeared to be broached, at a time when she was supposed to be running moorings from a newly arrived rig.

Only the unexpected nature of these calamities can be described as a “common factor” and indeed we could hardly anticipate one.

But the sea always surprises, and a body floating with an inch under its keel is intrinsically more hazardous than one sitting on dry land. It’s physics and there’s no arguing with it.

Do we focus sufficiently on the real surprises which the sea may throw at us in our risk management strategies?

Who in their right mind would have thought that a raging fire might, within a few minutes, be racing along the outside appurtenances of a giant cruiseship fitted with every conceivable type of firefighting equipment?

You can’t blame the designers for not anticipating such a conflagration, any more than you could criticise the ship’s crew for not practising regular abseiling down the ship with fire extinguishers, lest the passengers’ bath towels ignite.

But there again, those fussy old US naval architects, who designed the great liner United States with the butcher’s block as the only flammable item in her entire specification (other than the passengers themselves) might well have been a step ahead of their successors in their consideration of risk.

Dealing with the completely unexpected has always been part and parcel of the seafarer’s skill. I still remember many of the helpful pieces of advice I was given by my seniors, who doubtless had the same passed on to them by hoary old folk from the days of sail. It’s a sort of generation game.

“The officer of the watch on that ship,” pointed out a master slightly concerned at my passing distances as a freshly qualified junior third officer, “is probably incapacitated by drink, suffering from extreme myopia and too short to see out of the bridge windows — you need to give him more room!”

You tend to remember such advice. I certainly remembered it in the Gibraltar Straits a few years later when our steering gear broke down in a most alarming fashion, but our passing distance off a passing ship was such that we were not in actual danger.

“If a disaster can happen — it inevitably will” is a saying that is redolent with truth. But what if the possibility of such an accident occurring has not even entered anyone’s mind, or been identified as even a remote risk?

Just the other day I was on quite the biggest containership I had ever set foot aboard. It was an almost new 8,600 teu monster, which appeared to be built of steel the thickness of which would not look out of place on an armour-plated battleship.

The sheerstrake of the ship, for about the middle third of the ship’s length, was of plate nearly three inches thick, as was the deck plating adjacent to the ship’s side. In fact there was a noticable “step” down from this massive deck plate on the only place where you could walk across the ship’s colossal width, just abaft the superstructure, where stores could be handled.

Seeing this giant alongside I just could not possibly comprehend how such a seemingly impregnable ship could ever surprise those manning her, but there are ships this size which have lost overboard entire seven-high deck stacks of containers, and terrified their crews with the spectacular effects of parametric rolling. Nobody, no matter how strong and huge their ship, can ever take the sea for granted.

And with ships of this size, there is very little that a crew can do to intervene if things get out of hand. You think of all sorts of heroic acts in history, when beleagured seafarers fashioned jury rigs, constructed replacement rudders with a derrick, a few hatchboards and a couple of cargo winches, or “fished’ a serious leak under the waterline with a couple of tarpaulins and some strong cable.

What on earth would this tiny crew of about 23 souls do if this giant became uncontrollable, or a 40 footer buried in a stack suddenly burst into flames? How does a modern ship’s crew confront the unexpected? Or are you condemned to screaming for a helicopter and hoping that there is a capable salvor in the vicinity?

The amazing thing is that there are still such amazing acts of heroic seamanship and courage, when the chips are down. People seem still able, despite the unpromising characteristics of these massive modern ships, to handle them like tugboats, do extraordinary things with boats and rafts to fish out people from the water, or drag folk from certain death.

We should publicise these feats of seamanship far more than we do, and while the Marine Society and AMVER and the Fishermen and Mariners Royal Benevolent Society, the Nautical Institute and Lloyd’s List recognise these deeds, they don’t get out much into the general media.

Let us hope that the IMO Secretary-General’s initiative in offering an IMO Award for bravery at sea bears more fruit and gains some much needed recognition.

Just the other day I was reading an account of a remarkable act of courage and seamanship in the early days of last century with a master and crew saving their ship and bringing her safe into port, when others might have abandoned the fight.

There were articles in the papers, the master was awarded a handsome honorarium by Lloyd’s (they seem to have given such things up these days) and a piece of plate by the Board of Trade, while he and his crew, who came from a northern port city, were voted a civic dinner.

They were perhaps tougher, more stoic folk in those days, the ships were smaller and of course there was enough of them aboard to make a difference if the unexpected really did happen. They were also understood and appreciated by the public, which was not so remote from the seas and ships as it is today.

The trouble with these contemporary tales of the unexpected is that they seem as likely to happen in 2007 as they did a century previously. We understand the principles of risk management, we are busily getting to grips with “human factors” and we have an enormous amount of applied science on our side, where our predecessors had only seamanship.

We have regulations coming out of our ears, ships rendered practically unstable by the weight of printed advice. But it is impossible to forget that equilateral “risk triangle” and the segment of serious accidents that is represented by its apex.

Because in that small but significant section of this useful diagram are to be found passenger ships with 5,000 souls embarked, 10,000 teu containerships, 60,000 gt ferries and the more spectacular ships of our maritime present.

It would be a very foolish person who suggested that despite all the regulations and precautions, the simply frightful consequences of the unexpected would never happen. The first quarter of this year should surely tell us otherwise.

Food for thought

Have a nice day now — but do treat seafarers with respect
Viewpoint Michael Grey, 30 April 2007 Lloyds List

IF I HAD been born an American, I would have strained every fibre to join the US Coast Guard. The fifth biggest navy in the world, it enjoys public approbation and esteem for just about everything it does.

Its brave lifeboatmen save hundreds of lives every year on its long and often stormy coastline, while its air-sea rescue helicopters constantly carry out feats of brilliant airmanship.

It interdicts the drug runners with its fast craft and takes a proactive, scientific lead in maritime safety at every different level. It operates icebreakers in the Antarctic and Arctic, and long range cutters in two oceans. Its highly professional officers invariably impress, not least because of the extraordinary variety of a Coast Guard career.

The USCG, I am told, is the one US armed service which never has any problem recruiting, with the very best young people fighting to get in, and I am not surprised at the competition.

The US Coast Guard is now an important subsidiary in the Department of Homeland Security; the all-embracing agency created after September 11, 2001, to, er, do what it says on the tin and defend homeland America from terrorist enemies.

There are arguments about the rightness of the policies which led to the formation of this enormous department, which many have described as gross administrative overkill, hugely overestimating the capabilities of the forces ranged against the US.

There again, no democratic government can possibly take chances with the lives of its people, and to suggest that resources spent on security are wasted would take rashness to new limits.

So it is the Coast Guard which is manning the little patrol boats that zoom around the anchorages and provide a visible armed presence on the maritime threshold of America.

It is the Coast Guard which interrogates incoming ships and which boards and searches selected vessels. It is the Coast Guard which effectively implements the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.

It is the ISPS code, and the security detail which has changed the relationship between the Coast Guard and visiting mariners.

It was arguably on the downward track with port state control, which saw young and often inexperienced Coast Guard ratings making qualitative judgments on foreign merchant ships and their equipment and the competence of their crews.

The relationship between a professional “fault finder” and the professionals he is assessing can often be fraught, and when on one side there is a merchant ship officer of long standing and experience and on the other an inexperienced person who has been trained for that specific function and is following his rulebook with rigour, there can be misunderstandings.

It is one reason why many other maritime authorities, such as Britain’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency, employ experienced senior officers in their inspectorate. An inspection by one’s peers will not be without its stresses but carries with it a certain mutual respect.

From the early days of ISPS code implementation reports were received at international shipping organisations about Coast Guard details behaving in a more robust fashion than hitherto

There were reports that officers were trying to “test” ships by tricking their way aboard, offering false documentation or none, shouting at ship’s crew that their uniform was sufficient authority or, if the crew then admitted them, criticising the ship for their lax procedures.

Other “official” boarders from customs and immigration were also recorded as producing trouble for visiting ships.

What with the new visa restrictions, and often arbitrary restrictions or prohibitions of shore leave, the US was rapidly becoming a place for visiting seafarers, if they had any choice in the matter, to avoid like the plague.

Perhaps for a year or two in the aftermath of September 11 a certain nervousness about foreign visitors was understandable. But at the same time it has been noticeable that foreign tourists, apart from the minor inconvenience of having to remove shoes and belts when passing through airport x-ray machines, are treated in a generally acceptable and civil fashion.

Questions about relative risk assessment immediately come to mind, not to mention the obvious problems of alienating the hundreds of millions of tourists who pass through US airports every year. If you are that nasty to them, they just will not come.

Foreign seamen are not “discretionary” visitors. They are relatively few, and do not raise a fuss in Washington.

But it is five years that have elapsed since September 11, 2001, and even if the identified potential hazards have not been in any way reduced it is time that the faces behind the sunglasses of the boarders became rather more friendly.

Seafarers believe firmly that where terrorism is concerned they should be treated as part of the solution rather than a large slice of the problem.

Those of a certain age recall when the friendliness and hospitality of the people you encountered on the US coast was legendary and made each visit a pleasure, something to anticipate eagerly.

It is not nice to read about visitors being harassed by unsmiling men with guns throwing their weight about on the ship someone calls home, not least in a country you admire and wearing a uniform you have respected all your working life.

Put simply, the word “respect” needs to be reinvented by those who are training the Coast Guard boarders for their homeland defending role. You do not teach them to bark orders like stormtroopers at visiting foreign seafarers, who frankly are probably unused to such behaviour.

You respect the ship’s ISPS procedures, and if you have an issue with this there are people you take it up with. You respect the ship’s senior officers, especially if the ship is under way, and its current operations.

Above all, you do to others what you would rather people did to you, which does not include treating a 60-year-old shipmaster with 40 years at sea like a miscreant or a terrorist suspect. You might take your sunglasses off and occasionally smile.

You might employ a modicum of common sense to determine your approach to each individual ship, even though “risk profiling” seems to be disapproved of by the politically correct elements in your ranks.

A couple of months ago the excellent Scandinavian Shipping Gazette carried an interview with Villy Larsen, the Danish former master of the general cargoship Danica White, who contrived to serve 104 days in a US jail after a contretemps with a boarding detail as he approached Wilmington, to pick up, of all things, a military cargo for Saudi Arabia.

It began with a row over ISPS and identification. Capt Larsen said that one of the officers had no identity documents.

It devolved into an argument about the procedure for searching the ship, with the coastguard wanting to herd the crew into the messroom while their cabins were searched, which was against ship’s policy.

The coastguard wanted the hatches open to search the holds, The master refused as this would require cargo gear to be raised with the ship rolling in a swell. Reading between the lines, there was a breakdown in any sort of co-operative relationship between the master and the boarders.

When they left the ship they accused the master of aiming the ship at their boat, causing contact to be made between them. The master said the ship required steerage way and the contact happened at 1.2 knots.

Anyway, the master, two days after the ship had arrived, was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon (his ship) nine times.

It took 104 days before he was released, fined $100 for abusive language and deported.

It would not be the first time a shipmaster had lost his cool with an intransigent official in port, who then used all the authority with which he was vested to make it hot for the master.

Capt Larsen may have indeed been pretty abusive and uncouth, but there are ways of defusing such situations if the boarding officer had wanted to play it that way. But Capt Larsen was also a shipmaster, the authority aboard his ship, a ship moreover flying a foreign flag and he was entitled, above all, to that word again, the “respect” due to his rank.

The even sadder thing is that all those who read that account will be inclined to take the side of the wretched master, and feel hostility to the US which, frankly these days, needs all the friends it can get.

Readers will recall the equally sad tale of the row with the Turkish master who, after becoming exasperated about the delays occasioned by the security detail, made some crack about “putting a bomb under the boarders”.

His stay in jail was short and sharp but we were given the impression that he was lucky not to have ended up in Guantánamo Bay before he too was deported.

It is not the way to make friends in a world in which friends of America seem constantly to be on the defensive against those who would do her down.

The greatest democracy the world has ever seen needs to think about the impression she makes, and to care about it rather more. How many times, when a television producer is wishing to make some clever point about the US and Iraq, do we see that same old clip of a marine, looking like one of the Death Star warriors, kicking down that door in Sadr City in a search mission against insurgents.

I would not criticise that marine for a second. God knows what might have been inside the house, but it was unfortunate that the cameraman was part of the back-up.

It is the impression you make that counts, to be used for or against you in the future, and when it matters most. Never mind the potential terrorists. The “hearts and minds” of America’s friends need to be considered too when security policies are devised.

Engineers and accountants

As engineer professionals we can pretty much say that accountants are our "mortal enemies" always putting restraints on well laid plans. I guess I should be careful what I say, we have several accountants in the family, eheheh. The article below is a thoughtful piece that came across my desktop.


Curse of the accountants
11 May 2007 Lloyds List

Time was when every manufacturer, every wholesaler and every retailer would maintain stocks, so that the manufacturing process was not interrupted by a lack of components and supply would not disappoint demand.

It was, in its way, an acknowledgment of uncertainty, that “stuff happens”. Ships and trucks get delayed for all manner of reasons and sensible precautions were deemed necessary.

For their part, shipping companies operating liner services always had their contingency plans ready to maintain the product flow against the possibility of marine emergencies or breakdowns.

Ports, too, would have spare berths available, craneage that could be pressed into service to provide a little leeway if more ships turned up than had been expected.

A well-run ferry company would very often hang on to an older ship, keep it laid up in working order, so that should a ship break down or go for survey the service would not suffer. Ships themselves would carry a wide range of spares, so that if there was a breakdown it would be of short duration.

There was a price for all these things, but it was one which all thought worth while paying because experience suggested it was necessary.

Accountants, in more modern times, have put a stop to all of this. They have identified the stocks which people carried as unnecessary costs and demanded that such waste is eliminated.

Spares are shared between ships or ruthlessly reduced, while a pseudo-religion has evolved around utilization, with every item of equipment having to justify itself as being in current use and “earning”. “Sweating the assets” is an unattractive term which explains the situation perfectly. Port equipment is not even ordered until a customer is signed up who will use it, and the “spare” ferry has long gone.

Partly this has been justified by the greater reliability of modern machinery, but increasingly there is a demand for greater generosity in provision. Ships have been delayed for weeks, even months, because a replacement part actually had to be manufactured, not merely shipped from some other part of the world.

There is chaos and legal redress sought when the supply lines are interrupted because of some marine misadventure. There are gigantic queues of ships outside bulk ports where there is no spare capacity that can accommodate a surge in demand.

Ferry services abruptly cease when the ship delivering them goes in for a refit, and the enraged customers are forced to make alternative arrangements. What has become something of a “classic” of our times in illustrating this problem is the supply problems which were caused by the interruption of the voyage of the MSC Napoli. Within a few days of the incident a vehicle production line in South Africa, it was reported, had gone on to short time.

Things really do happen, and common sense suggests that the accountants row back their expectation and permit a little leeway to be restored to their financial models.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mouse at sea gains weight

Disney will always have a special place in my heart ...and other places, and it seems like they may have pulled the trigger on two new ship for the brand, Disney Cruise Line. The big thing when I was there, was the promise of promotion on the new ships, which had been promised for so long, five years ago, that it kinda became a running joke with the crew.

The article below, seem to suggest that DCL may have finally decide to expand the fleet, in a big way. I believe the president of the company, Tom McAlpin, once came on board showing the designs of the new ship, citing that they would be "money machine". Indeed the the whole division has always been a money machine for Disney, but I believe they may have been allot of politics within the company that delayed the building of the new ships. You see, DCL is a division of Parks and Hotels (and run like it too) so even thought the cruise line was very successful they had to drag the whole bureaucracy of Parks and Hotels into decision making, so in my view limited in their success.

Here is the Meyer Werf's brief press release about the deal. While you are there check out the web cam of the building halls. Two cruise ships are being built, one for AIDA and one for Norwegian Cruise Line - kinda cool. They have also started building the Solstice for Celebrity Cruise Line a unit of Royal Carribean Cruise Line. Here is Disney Cruise Line's press release.

Disney finalizes order for 2 ships
Pair will more than double capacity of cruise line as demand increases

Disney Cruise Line announced Monday that it has finalized a contract to build two new cruise ships with German shipbuilder Meyer Werft shipyard. Specific financial terms were not disclosed.

"This is an exciting time at Disney Cruise Line, and we are looking forward to working with Meyer Werft to build two new, innovative ships that will take our immersive, family-focused cruise experience to an entirely new level," Disney Cruise Line President Tom McAlpin said in a statement.

Plans to add two 124,000-ton ships to the fleet were announced in February, when executives signed a letter of intent to negotiate a construction contract with Meyer Werft. The ships will be built in Papenburg, Germany. Scheduled to launch in 2011 and 2012, the ships will more than double the passenger capacity for Disney Cruise Line to meet the demand for Disney's cruise vacations.

The new ocean liners will be significantly larger than the existing 83,000-ton ships -- the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder -- with 1,250 staterooms each. The Magic and the Wonder are home-ported at Port Canaveral. Disney Cruise Line established the family market within the cruise industry when the business launched in 1998.

interpretations of classic ocean liners of the 1930s. Similar to the original Disney Cruise Line ships, Disney said the new ships will be modernDisney designers -- known as "Imagineers" -- drew their inspiration from the original trans-Atlantic ships that featured a dramatic black hull with two funnels and porthole windows. The profile of the ships, with gentle curves at the stern, combined with sleek angles at the bow, is reminiscent of the art-deco designs of the era.

The Disney ships feature the same exterior colors as Disney icon Mickey Mouse, with a black, white, red and yellow palette. Disney said the new ships will feature detailed Disney scrollwork at the bow and evoke images of the glamour of the golden age of cruising.

The ships were built to respond to demand for new itineraries, the company said. While no announcements have been made on itinerary changes, Disney Cruise Line executives said bookings for future Disney Cruise Line trips on the Mediterranean and on the West Coast have been strong. Disney Cruise Line traditionally offers three-, four- and seven-night Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral.

"Expanding our fleet will give us the flexibility to offer a variety of itineraries in the future," McAlpin said. "We are looking forward to taking our guests on new adventures to different parts of the world with Disney Cruise Line."