The manager of port operations for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has told TTG of the daunting task of bringing Oasis of the Seas into the port of Southampton, branding it the “biggest challenge of his career”
Adam Sharp, who looks after Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said working out how Southampton and other European ports would accommodate the world’s largest ship had been three years in the planning.
Oasis of the Seas is currently sailing a micro season out of Barcelona: the ship will sail two five-night round-trip western Mediterranean voyages, and a seven-night sailing to Rotterdam, before arriving in Southampton on October 15.
Although all of the European ports have presented their own difficulties in accommodating the 5,400 passenger-ship, which was designed to sail in the Caribbean, Sharp said Southampton had proved “the trickiest by a mile”.
“Each port has had its own unique set of challenges,” he said. “For example, in Barcelona, we had to use two terminals for embarkation because the ship is so long. It stretches across both terminals, and it’s the first time any ship has done that in Barcelona.
“Oasis was built for the Caribbean, which has a tide difference of 20-30 centimetres. In Southampton it’s 4.8 metres”
“We’ve also had to increase the number of check-in desks at embarkation ports, which would normally have around 50, but with the two terminals in Barcelona this obviously increased to 100, and Southampton would normally have around 56, but we’ve increased this to around 75 check-in desks.”
Sharp said extra security equipment such as x-ray machines also had to be installed, while issues such as space for the 150 buses typically required to ferry passenger back and forth had be calculated.
Meanwhile, Southampton presented a whole new logistical challenge, with the height of the quay side and high tidal changes meaning Sharp had to devise a new way of boarding the ship.
“Oasis was built for the Caribbean, which has a minimal tide, with a difference of around 20-30 centimetres. In Southampton it’s around 4.8 metres difference.
The doors are quite low down - either on deck two, or quite high up on deck five. We would rather passengers enter here into the Royal Promenade, but the only way would be to build scaffolding attached to a 42-metre ramp, which just wasn’t really feasible.”
Instead, passengers will walk up a small ramp which then enables them to descend below the quayside and then enter the ship at deck two.
Oasis will then wait until the evening - precisely 23.59pm, Sharp said - when there are no other ships in the harbour before departing. It will then sail up to an area labelled “the upper swinging ground”, where it is deep enough for the ship to perform a three-point turn, before leaving the port, en route to Port Everglades.