SunStone Ships has signed a contract with CMHI for the construction of vessel number six in the INFINITY series, all designed by Ulstein. Niels-Erik Lund, CEO and president of SunStone expects that the remaining four options will be signed by the end of 2019.
In the company magazine, the ‘SunStone Insider’, the CEO highlights his favourite quotes, one of these being:
‘Let’s not look behind. That’s not where we’re going!’
Niels-Erik Lund definitely lives up to this quote. SunStone Ships is quite unique in the cruise industry. All their ships are chartered out to different operators. When it comes to tonnage, SunStone is the largest tonnage provider of expedition cruise ships in the world and through associated companies provides technical and hotel management services.
“A specialised crew is crucial when it comes to manning cruise ships in the exploration sector. We go to very remote areas and must be able to fix everything that might occur. Small operators in this niche get access to skilled crews, such as masters with ice competence, or the right technical knowledge,” comments Lund. There are other benefits too:
“We get lower operating costs on the vessels and can run the fleet more economically, as we gain economies of scale. A company chartering one of our vessels will receive the all the benefits of being part of a fleet.”
Shaping the future
SunStone’s philosophy has been to buy existing vessels, but a few years ago they decided on newbuilding as the best way to grow their fleet. This move stems from a drop in available tonnage and the quick growth in the exploration market. In 2017, SunStone and CMHI entered into an agreement on the construction of potentially ten vessels in the INFINITY series based on Ulstein’s designs.
The INFINITY vessels are based on the CX103 design featuring the X-BOW® by Ulstein Design & Solutions. This IP protected bow was originally developed for excellent seakeeping in rough conditions, but also has the advantage of offering more space in the bow areas, taken in use for spacious lounges with outstanding views.
“Our charterers are anxious to enjoy the advantages of our cutting-edge technology, like the X-BOW® design, along with the significant operating efficiencies offered by the INFINITY class. So, we’re moving as quickly as possible to get them into the market,” Lund comments.
The vessels are 104.4 m long and 18.4 m wide. They have a passenger capacity of 130-200, and a crew capacity of 85-115, small enough to give an exclusive atmosphere, large enough to yield all expected services and facilities, such as a swimming pool, bar and restaurant, boutique, cinema, gym and spa. The vessel stores abundant gear for outdoor activities such as Zodiacs, bikes, kayaks or paddle boards.
The hull will be built according to Polar class 6, Polar code Cat B, with dynamic positioning system and zero-speed stabilizers, and classed by Bureau Veritas.
The INFINITY class project is a global cooperation, with the shipowner and interior designer in the U.S., the interior supplier and ship designer are Scandinavian, the shipbuilding is carried out in China and the operators (charterers) are world-wide. Ulstein is responsible for the ship designs including the equipment package which has been purchased in Europe.
The realisation of a dream
SunStone’s plans for the INFINITY series of exploration cruise vessels have matured over the years, and now all are about to become a reality.
“This niche is growing, and we are the biggest in the world in it. This is the realisation of a dream,” Niels-Erik Lund sums up, adding:
‘Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.’