Cruise liners: global support networks keep AV running4 December 2014
Our first look at cruise liner AV outlined the challenges faced by operators and the way reducing fuel consumption has impacted weight saving practices and new technology. Here, Steve Montgomery reveals how a global support network is essential for quick repairs, the importance of uniformity of design for technicians moving between vessels and that land-based partners with remote access are the last line of defence.
Spare parts are held onboard, but with space and weight restrictions stemming from the need for energy saving, there are limited supplies. In general one of each type of unit is held, backed by additional components that need regular replacement. Accurate stock control and maintenance records are essential: crews are trained to replace internal parts of most devices at sea, but will need to replenish stocks at the next available opportunity or port of call, often through the local supplier or dealer, which means that global support of products is essential.
New equipment is usually selected by companies’ AV management teams, in conjunction with their IT department. Close relationships between cruise lines and manufacturers have developed and resulted in special equipment designs. According to Gee Edwards, project manager at TED AV, the lighting industry has responded to the need for features dedicated to ship installation, including shortened PAR can noses to meet the confined installations found onboard; a challenge that is made even harder on older ships where theatres and other venues tend to be smaller, with lower ceilings. Uniformity of supply across a fleet brings the advantage of familiarity so that technicians can support each other and move between vessels more easily.
In the majority of refits the networking and data cabling infrastructure is used, as Chris Moylan of Optikalusion notes: “All ships operating today have DMX-controlled lighting rigs and generally have sufficient network points so a refit is an exercise in upgrading new for old equipment. Often this work is undertaken by the ship’s own crew which gives them valuable training, supported by specialist consultants and programmers to commission the equipment and train them.”
However not all ongoing support can be provided by the ships’ crews, as Tripp Matthews of QSC Audio Products explains: “The onboard technical crews perform first line troubleshooting. Remote access to critical systems enables land-based partners to connect directly to systems using remote data connection, although quality of satellite signal, and network security access levels, continue to be the main challenges in this area. In the event that the issue cannot be resolved remotely, an onsite visit by shore side support team personnel would be required on the next available port day.”
Jorma Tikka, senior sales manager at Noretron Audio, works with major cruise lines in Scandinavia: “Sound engineers are trained to service equipment in failure situations. If a mixing console needs repair they can do that using spare parts onboard, supported by direct phone contact, email or visit at the ship if needed.”
Despite the harsh environment and constrained operating conditions found on cruise liners, there are many parallels to land-based AV and lighting installations that allow manufacturers, installers and operators to operate within this sector and draw expertise and benefit from it.