Following a successful business relationship lasting many years, Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) and DNV are to co-operate in the cruise line’s new HESS (Health, Environment, Safety and Sustainability) Excellence programme.
As the first major US cruise line to get its entire fleet back to guest operations after the cruise sector’s pause, CCL has a growth plan that included two new ships in 2022 with three more to be added over the next 18 months.
Much of this commercial success is attributable to an extraordinary corporate culture and the far-sighted way in which CCL kept its fleet in shape during the pandemic, claimed Jan Solum, DNV Area Manager for the North American East Coast.
Playing a crucial role in this success story is Capt Domenico Rognoni, CCL’s Chief Marine Officer (pictured).
Having spent 43 years of his career at the company, he saw first-hand its ascent from being a small cruise operator with just three ships to the huge corporation it is today.
After joining the original ’Mardi Gras’ in 1980, Capt Rognoni was part of the inaugural crew of Carnival’s first-ever newbuilding, ’Tropicale’, after her launch in 1982, and sailed on board CCL ships until 1997. Having held many leadership positions at CCL since, he was instrumental in establishing the corporate culture.
The pandemic created huge challenges for cruise companies, Capt Rognoni said. To repatriate crew members worldwide while borders were closed and air travel was shut down, CCL moved the vessels. “Supporting our crews has always been a priority at CCL,” he said.
After the pandemic, CCL was able to fill crucial positions quickly, considering the circumstances, the return rate was overwhelming, Capt Rognoni said.
CCL kept its vessels in operating condition with reduced manning throughout the pandemic to be able to restart quickly, efficiently and safely, conducting the scheduled inspections and maintenance audits remotely.
“A lesson we learned during the pandemic was that sometimes we do not take advantage of a useful new technology immediately because sticking to the routine is easier,” Capt Rognoni said.
“The pandemic brought about many opportunities to embrace new technology. Reinventing the way we do things taught us how much more we can sometimes accomplish when we really have to.”
The secret to a successful corporate culture in general, and an effective safety culture in particular, is the way you interact with people, he said, having overseen several successful safety enhancement programmes at CCL over the years. “One three-year programme Capt Rognoni oversaw yielded impressive safety results,” Solum pointed out.
“By focusing on building a strong safety culture throughout the entire organisation, and building up people, processes and procedures, CCL successfully reduced the accident frequency significantly over three years.
“Capt Rognoni has always had foresight and implemented smart strategic initiatives and tactical solutions related to safety well ahead of the maritime industry, as he did again now, during the pandemic, and through the solutions he implemented while restarting safely back into operation,” he said.
Capt Rognoni saw CCL’s consistent drive for improvement, and in particular the implementation of its six core values, as key enablers of this outcome before and after the pandemic.
“These principles are closely interconnected: Speak up – Listen – Respect and Protect – Empower – Improve – Communicate,” he explained.
“We believe in a culture of trust where everyone feels comfortable to bring their ideas and concerns to the table. By listening and learning we can bring people’s input to fruition. We must respect and protect places and people; and we should empower our people to grow because everyone makes a difference.”
He added that above all, a big company cannot grow unless it improves and innovates constantly: “There is always a better way to do things and we need to get away from the status quo, think out of the box and believe that we can improve anything we do,” he added.
As more and more new technologies become part of daily life on board, the safety culture must adapt, Capt Rognoni said: “The new technologies – LNG, fuel cells, etc– require people who are well prepared and knowhow to operate them. People who are competent above and beyond the basic requirements, not only the technical team but also the deck team. They all need additional training and certification to ensure safe operation.”
After CCL took delivery of its first two LNG-fuelled newbuildings in 2021 and 2022, respectively, DNV sent experts from its Høvik headquarters to the US at CCL’s request to help with crew and office staff training on maintenance and operation management.
Solum explained. “We are fortunate to be able to draw on a portfolio of hundreds of training programmes from our Maritime Academy, available at our Cruise Centre, to tailor training programmes upon request.”
Improvement and innovation have been key elements of the co-operation between CCL and DNV and will become even more prominent. “We always recognised that DNV had extremely great areas of expertise where we could take advantage. DNV is widely respected in the shipping industry and active in a wide range of other fields outside shipping,” Capt Rognoni said.
“Recently, we established an innovation partnership to develop a software tool to support our successful resumption to service through our HESS Excellence programme.”
CCL’s new HESS Excellence programme was key to a successful restart after the pandemic. It was very well received on board, due to the excellent collaboration and support that was provided in all areas of operation.
“It is more than an inspection check; it is like taking an X-ray of the condition of that vessel,” Capt Rognoni further explained.
“We are very excited about the digitalisation collaboration we have engaged in with DNV. And there are many other areas where we can work together with DNV to understand how we can improve and explore technologies and make progress, such as de-carbonisation and fuel efficiency.
“We are definitely looking forward to the journey we are about to embark on with DNV. I have great expectations that it will be much more than just going on board, inspecting the vessel and creating a report or issuing a certificate. Together we can put the bar higher and higher. There is no limit to compliance,” he added.
Compliance is important, Capt Rognoni stressed, but it should not be considered as a chore. “My goal is to create synergies, teams that work together and always look for that better way of doing things that is always there. I want people to view and exercise compliance as an asset.
“It is Carnival’s purpose and mission to deliver unforgettable happiness to our guests by providing extraordinary cruise vacations, while honouring the integrity of every ocean we sail, place we visit and life we touch. And we do this by delivering on our vision of being the global leader in the cruise industry, where we will lead the way in innovative and sustainable cruising to deliver memorable vacations and build borderless connections,” Capt Rognoni continued.
“And how do we do that? By setting clear business priorities where our ambition is: to set the pace with the industry’s smartest solutions that deliver on our sustainability roadmap to 2030, and by maintaining our commitment to excellence in compliance, environmental protection and in looking after the safety, health and well-being of every life we touch,” he concluded.