MSC Cruise Ship Upgraded by ‘Stretching’


Earlier this month, Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo, Sicily attracted onlookers when a cruise ship was pulled apart in order to be ‘stretched’. Over several days the cruise ship Armonia, a 60,000 gt (gross tonnage) vessel, was cut in half just in front of the funnel in order for a new section to be inserted.

One of the smallest ships belonging to MSC Cruises, Armonia’s new section took three and a half months to build at the shipyard, and promises to extend the ship by 24 meters. This extension increases passenger capacity from 1,566 to 1,952, creates an additional 193 cabins (90 of which are balcony cabins), and makes space for exciting developments including a water park, teenagers club, crèche, and library. Improvements will also be made to the ship’s fuel consumption and fire safety.

Watch this amazing timelapse video recorded in Hamburg, Germany, to see the extension take place:

As part of their ongoing commitment to raise cruise ship standards, MSC also plans to stretch Armonia’s three sister ships, Sinfonia, Lirica and Opera at the shipyard in Palermo, with work scheduled to start in January 2015. While the work amounts to almost $260 million in total, it is significantly cheaper than building new ships from scratch.

The technology behind stretching a ship

Once a ship has been cut, separating the two parts is a slow and careful process. A system of hydraulics known as ‘skid shoes’ is used to lift and pull one half of the ship (in Armonia’s case, the front half, weighing a hefty 14,000 tons) along tracks in the yard’s dry dock. In the same manner, the new 2,200 ton section is then slowly hauled into place to await welding. Once the new section is welded, the hull is then resealed and the interior refitted.

Describing it as a “complex project”, MSC’s technical department general manager, Emilio La Scala said, “Our programme cost a lot of money and in the next two years we will extend our capacity. It’s a huge investment that shows our commitment to having high standards and using cutting edge technology.”

With the welding scheduled to begin on September 25th, the newly-refurbished Armonia is due to set sail on November 17th. While ‘stretching’ cruise ships is a relatively new practice, it is hoped that this state-of-the-art technology will continually improve slightly older cruise ships, allowing them to compete with newer vessels.

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Image sourced via MSC Cruise USA News. Credit: MSC Cruise USA.

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