Large-scale cruise ships are not easily replenished. From the time they return to port from their latest voyage until they can be unloaded, cleaned and completely replenished can take upwards of five hours or more. That’s five hours of unproductive down time for an asset whose costs can run into the $ billions. Each minute that ship sits in port costs its owners dearly. From a financial perspective, a quicker, more efficient replenishment system might be justified but, if operational and environmental performance are also improved simultaneously, that justification becomes that much easier. The same holds true for naval applications where timing may be of the essence on a more acute scale.
The history of shipbuilding had ships being designed from the inside out with little thought towards replenishment. A ship’s galley and its stores were designed much like that of an efficient, high volume, land-based kitchen where space constraints and replenishment speed were of little concern and the environment was limitless. For the cruise ships and navies of today replenishment speed and operational efficiency are much more important than yesteryear.
On-board walk-in pantries, fridges, freezers and storage require a lot of space that’s left unutilized as these facilities are depleted of their contents and the aisles required to maneuver in them are wasted space from the start. For sanitary reasons, all consumables on cruise ships are transferred from pallets and boxes to metal trays of varying depths and then stored in racks. Any processes that can be executed more efficiently on land than at sea should be and then transferred to the ship at ports of call. Unfortunately, a simple lack of efficient space utilization often keeps these processes on-board to the detriment of optimal operational performance.
Consider commercial scale laundry facilities. They take up inordinate amounts of precious space onboard cruise ships and the laundry staff have to be housed and fed the whole time that ship is at sea. This is only done because the designers of current systems believe it’s the most efficient way to do it but, this too, is antiquated thinking and goes back to ships being designed from the inside out. Humans utilize historical data to minimize economic risk but this stifles innovative thinking and ignores social and environmental concerns.
Pre-stocking the CCS for upcoming voyages dramatically improves the flexibility and efficiency of replenishment processes. Produce, meats and baked goods suppliers could be given empty modules to pre-stock with metal, sanitized trays that fit into the racks of the CCS minimizing unnecessary packaging and saving time from the current requirements of doing this on-board. As they deliver a full, pre-stocked module they exchange it for an empty one to begin the cycle over again. Once the modules are delivered, the trays are available to mix and match as required for the next voyage(s). Modules can be separated for insertion and storage into a freezer container or a temperature-controlled container as they await loading for the next ship. This allows more time for inspections and verifications of inventory before ship departures and provides more efficient and accurate inventory management in the warehouse. Intermodal containers can be stacked nose-to-nose and side-by-side to eliminate most of the aisles in a warehouse too, providing much more efficient cubic space utilization in a warehouse setting.