“Shipping Network” – Holidays in the hold – The Cruise People’s Kevin Griffin says take a trip on a cargo ship to get under the skin of shipping

This article appears in the December 2014 issue of “Shipping Network,” the official magazine of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers.

Holidays in the hold    by Kevin Griffin

CMA CGM Andromeda © Walter Rademacher

The UK-registered 2009-built CMA CGM Andromeda carries ten passengers in two twin cabins and three doubles

As many shipping people are aware, there are about 300 passenger-carrying cargo ships on world trade routes, ranging from shortsea vessels to the world’s largest container ships. These vessels, all built in recent years, are limited to a maximum of twelve passengers each, above which they must carry a doctor.

Still, it never fails to surprise us the number of people engaged in shipping who do not realise that cargo ships might carry passengers. Twice, we have had booked passengers to board in Long Beach who were told by the local agent that their ships did not carry passengers!

As container ships displaced cargo liners in the 1970s, much cargo-passenger activity faded away, but over the years the practice has been revived as the concept was introduced to container ships. The first container line to carry passengers was Hamburg-Süd in 1985.

The changed nature of the chartering of container ships today can, however, cause problems for would-be passengers. While once owners operated their own ships, today’s fleets are divided into owned, leased and chartered vessels, and since 2008 many of the latter have been operating on some very short charters.

This particularly affects Germany with its shipowning tax saving plans. When ships change charterers or are withdrawn from one route and moved to another this causes problems for passengers This is something passengers are made aware of when they book of course, but it’s still a disruption.

To take a German example, Niederelbe Schiffahrtsgesellschaft Buxtehude (NSB) turned to passenger carrying after an unusual start. Managing newly-built container ships owned by many individuals investing in the 1980s and 1990s ‘KG’ tax saving schemes, it set aside accommodation for the owners’ holidays.

But when investors did not make use of the cabins NSB offered them to the public. It now operates about 40 passenger-carrying container ships on routes that are determined by charterers such as CMA CGM, Evergreen Line, Hanjin, MSC and Zim.

Chairman’s call

CMA CGM owns 75 passenger-carrying cargo ships, 30 of which are registered in London. After adding the privatised CGM to CMA to form CMA CGM in 1996, chairman Jacques Saadé decided that new container ships should have passenger accommodation, usually for eight or 10 passengers. This was his way of commemorating famous French liners such as the Normandie and the France.

CMA CGM’s Panama Direct Service between Europe and Australia and New Zealand is fully booked eighteen months in advance. A round voyage takes 84 days and one-way bookings are also accepted. But while cabins for voyages to Australia are full, trade with China means that there is still plenty of space for those wishing to travel to and from the Far East. CMA CGM carried 874 passengers during 2013.

Grande Costa d'AvorioFor its part, Grimaldi Lines provides passenger accommodation in about 35 cargo ships. As they are of a unique design, they are the only cargo ships offering inside cabins. Other lines have a maximum age limit of 79, but Grimaldi will accept passengers up to 85. Its most popular services run from Tilbury to South America and from Southampton to the Mediterranean and Scandinavia.

Hamburg’s Rickmers Line, meanwhile, operates nine multi-purpose heavy lift ships in round-the-world service. Spending more time in port, they are popular with passengers. Passengers join in Singapore, sail to ports in Southeast Asia and the Far East, transit the Panama Canal and call on the US eastern seaboard before crossing the Atlantic to Antwerp, Hamburg and Genoa. Those wishing to sail all the way round the world can connect to Singapore from Europe or North America by container ship.

Polsteam operates to the Great Lakes and has a fleet of 11 ships that accept passengers. Carrying steel from IJmuiden to the lakes and loading grain out, they offer the last opportunity to travel on a “tramp” bulk carrier.

In light of the popularity of passenger transits on cargo ships, why have some owners such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd taken themselves entirely out of the passenger game, while others such as CMA CGM, Grimaldi and Hamburg-Süd have upped their ante with more ships? When Hapag-Lloyd bought out CP Ships in 2005, for example, it took 21 container ships out of the passenger game.

One reason owners like passengers is that in a poor market a few passengers can add a few hundred dollars a day to the time charter return. Another, more altruistic reason, is that their officers and crew feel less isolated and disconnected from the real world, a worthwhile reason indeed. Fares average about €100 per person per day.

Kevin Griffin MICS is managing director of Griffin Maritime Co Ltd and its affiliate The Cruise People Ltd. Further details at www.cruisepeople.co.uk.

Phil Reimer Writes About Freighter Cruising – His Cruising Column Appears In Ten Canadian Newspapers In The Postmedia Network

Freighter cruises long…and unique

Hanjin Amsterdam, which operates the Seattle \'freighter cruise\' route

Hanjin Amsterdam, which operates the Seattle “freighter cruise” route

 

Published: August 9, 2014, 3:00 am
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It’s not the Queen Mary 2 but they sail the same route across the Atlantic. You won’t have a crowded pool, major production shows or a casino. You will have the run of the ship in good weather, swim in an uncrowded pool and have lots to eat, but little choice beyond what’s being served. Your cabins are big and, yes, some are for singles. Don’t wait for an invite to the bridge because you are free to visit whenever you like, within reason. You can even drop down and see the men in the engine room.
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This the world of “freighter cruising.”

When you’re travelling on a freighter, you don’t have to worry about being one of 3,000. The passenger levels are kept at somewhere between six and 12. According to Kevin Griffin, Managing Director of The Cruise People, freighter cruising is growing at the same percentage as river cruising, with a much smaller number of people.

The Cruise People is an agency based in London, but half its business comes from North America and Australia. This company doesn’t actively sell the mainstream large cruise lines because its market is freighters, small ships, expedition ships and luxury brands.

The freighter trips are long and while retirees have the time, Kevin points out you will also find on board young people who, after finishing college, are looking for a getaway before settling down to work life.

According to Kevin, the food is good and hearty but the choice is what the captain and the officers are eating that day.

What about speed?

“A good formula,” he says, “is that it take a day to steam as far as a jet will fly in an hour. You can do an around-the-world trip if you fly on the portion from New York to Vancouver [or in reverse]”

Sample of interior room on a freighter ship

On the cruise I am about to highlight there are three different cabin (including the single cabins) configurations. Some are large “as much as 30 square metres.”

Kevin adds that, in a much bigger way, you are part of the overall scene on freighters. They travel all over the world, including the Great Lakes to Europe. One good example is a 42-day return trip from the West Coast, starting in Seattle with stops in Portland and Vancouver before crossing the Pacific. Asian ports are Pusan, Kwangyang, Ningbo and Shanghai, followed by the return  trip back across the ocean to Prince Rupert before returning to Seattle.

Depending on loads, Kevin says the ports can change from time to time so you have to be flexible.

He also adds if you board at Vancouver and depart in Prince Rupert you reduce the cruise by a week and save some money. The fare becomes $4,650 per person including fees and taxes for 35 days or $4,410 single for the same thing.

Here is a summary of what’s on board and what’s for dinner (also breakfast and lunch)…

• Indoor swimming pool, sauna, fitness room, washer/dryer, lounge area, TV/VCR (TV near ports only), steward, cabin cleaning weekly

• Three cabins (owners, double, single)

• Meals with the captain and the officers

• Typical menus: breakfast — sausage goulash, eggs one day, French toast the next; lunch — chicken curry with rice, then breaded fish and ratatouille; dinner — spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread, then sweet and sour pork with rice.

That’s a small sample of what goes on when travelling by freighter. For all the details, go to cruisepeople.co.uk. For email, use passageenquiry@aol.com.

“Mostly,” adds Kevin, “our passengers want the cruise experience without the 3,000-plus passengers that come with the mainline cruises.”

Would I try it? I’m not sure.

However, judging by the number of questions I receive about freighter cruising, there is a lot of interest.

Following is the complete menu and a list of one ship’s details, followed by pricing information (as a sample) from another ship:

Freighter menu

Hanjin Geneva details

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© COPYRIGHT – POSTMEDIA NEWS
As published at http://www.canada.com – newspapers in the Postmedia Network include the National Post, The Gazette of Montreal, the Ottawa Citizen, The Windsor Star, the Regina Leader-Post, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, the Calgary Herald, the Edmonton Journal, The Vancouver Sun and Vancouver’s The Province.

Round-the-World Cruise People Freighter Client (Seattle to New York) Interviewed by Another Cruise People Client (Piraeus to Hong Kong)

Last summer, Athens-based repeat Cruise People customer Bex Hall, who had earlier sailed in one of the last banana boats to carry passengers, travelled from Piraeus to Hong Kong in the NSB container ship Hanjin Boston. Bex posted her experiences on her blog, an excerpt of which can be found here.

Whether by coincidence, by serendipity or by Google, Minnesota-based David Riggs happened upon Bex’s blog and also onto a piece on our own blog that mentioned a unique round-the-world routing between Seattle and New York or vice-versa, available through CMA CGM.

https://i1.wp.com/www.cybercruises.com/images/CMA_CGM_World_Cruises.jpgOnce bitten by Bex’s posting, David got really interested and contacted us to arrange a voyage of his own, which he set out on last autumn on another container ship, the CMA CGM La Scala. sailing round the world from Seattle across the Pacific and the China Seas, through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic back to New York.

Although both Bex and David passed through the Suez and the Mediterranean on their respective voyages, about the only port call they actually had in common was Hong Kong. You will find Bex’s interview with David, and David’s deep reaction to the experience here at Bex’s blog.

Anyone wanting to experience the same thing or similar need only contact our freighter specialist Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London and we will soon have you set to go to sea. There are now 300 passenger-carrying cargo ships on the world’s seas, accepting pasengers for as few as eight or as many as 112 days. For further details call us on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail us at cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

With thanks to both Bex Hall and David Riggs.

World’s Largest Passenger-Carrying Ship (and the World’s Largest Container Ship) CMA CGM Marco Polo Christened In Zeebrugge

The world’s largest passenger-carrying ship, the UK-registered CMA CGM Marco Polo, was christened in Zeebrugge, Belgium, today. Larger than the cruise ship Oasis of the Seas, she is also the world’s largest container ship (16,020 TEU) and will carry up to ten passengers in the French Asia Line service between Southampton and the Far East, a round voyage of about 77 days.

Here is a quick comparison:

CMA CGM Marco Polo – 1,278 x 177 feet (10 lower berths)
Oasis of the Seas – 1,181 x 154 feet (5,400 lower berths)

Her 175,343 gross tons give the CMA CGM Marco Polo a passenger space ratio of a whopping 17,500 tons per passenger – except of course that that space is devoted to the carriage of cargo. CMA CGM has commissioned two more sister ships of the same tonnage to be delivered next spring.

Calls will be made at Southampton, which she visited for the first time last week to unload Christmas presents for the British public, Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, Le Havre and Malta before continuing through the Suez Canal to Khor Fakkan, Jebel Ali, Ningbo, Shanghai, Xiamen, Hong Kong, Chiwan, Yantian, Port Kelang and back then through Suez to Tanger Med and Southampton.

Sample fare: €4,900, or about £4,150 per person double (€5,390, or about £4,565 single) Southampton to Hong Kong. Sailings leave Rotterdam six days after Southampton and Le Havre eight days after, with fares adjusted by €100 per day (€110 per day single). The full round voyage of 77 days is €7,700, or about £6,520 per person double (€8,470, or about £7,170 single). Passengers dine with the officers and complimentary wine is served with lunch and dinner.

Passenger bookings for the CMA CGM Marco Polo have now opened so for further details please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.