“I am a Genoese designer of the ships that entertain the world”

Genoa - Bruzzone: the march towards gigantism is not stopping, and that’s not all.

di Matteo Martinuzzi

Genoa - While Costa Crociere’s top management are speaking German in Genoa, in America a Genoese is the designer of the ships for all of the Carnival group’s brands. Under 40s who climb to the top management of global groups because of the (virtuous) mechanisms of globalization. Roberto Bruzzone graduated class of 1976 from the University of Genoa Polytechnic with a degree in Naval Engineering from the department whose offices area at Villa Cambiaso. He was the youngest building manager for Carnival from 2009 to 2013, when he worked at Fincantieri at Monfalcone, where he saw the construction of prestigious cruise liners like the “Royal Princess” and “Queen Elizabeth”. Now he lives in Southampton, where Carnival’s core design team is based, and he is a technical vice-president of the group, which means he is the design manager for the ships.

So I’m afraid you won’t be able to avoid talking about Sestri Ponente and the difficulties that its shipyard is encountering. Will you return?

“I must say that personally I am very strongly linked to Sestri: I began my work with Carnival there as a hull inspector and it’s where I took my first steps in the sector. I still have lots of friends there, and every one of them has taught me something important. I’ll tell you something, since all of them tease me for my attachment to Genoa and to Genoa C.F.C football club: on my desk in Southampton I have a griffin cut from a piece of sheet metal that was created and given to me by the Sestri shipyard. It is a facility that has very sound skilled workers and a great shipbuilding tradition. I have followed the recent, unfortunate news about the shipyard, but I am sure that it will recover. I would very much like it if Carnival returned to Sestri to build ships and I hope that this will be possible again in the future.”

So is the marriage with Fincantieri destined to last?

“Look, the partnership between Fincantieri and Carnival is among the strongest in the sector. The overwhelming majority of our new ships were built by Fincantieri, which as you know is now the largest builder in the sector anywhere in the world. In five years Italian shipyards have provided us with more than 10 units. So yes, as long as there is a reciprocal interest, the relationship between these two companies is destined to grow stronger, and in the coming years we will see more of the Corporation’s ships launched from Fincantieri plants.

Could you explain the work that you do a bit?

In my new role I am responsible for the technical side of new constructions, and therefore the new ship designs for across the group. We are responsible for defining and developing the design “concept” from the basic design to the technical specifications and all the way up to the approval of the detail drawings for the new ships that are ordered and built. Our goals are safer ships, eco-sustainability, and let’s come right out and say it: also beauty and entertainment, because passengers’ expectations always get higher.

And will ships continue to grow larger?

“Even if there are various contradictory theories on that subject, I believe that the push for gigantism in ships, definitely for certain companies, is not going to stop. The push is partly justified by economies of scale and even by a desire, which we might call a historical desire, to compete to be largest ship in the world. It will certainly not be the only direction in which the market will develop, but at a certain point some shipyards should adapt if they want to survive.

Like Sestri with its seaward expansion?

The expansion will certainly allow Sestri to reduce its production costs and work in a manner that is more functional, using new and larger operational spaces. But the limit on the maximum capacity of the new ships remains linked to the dimensions of the construction basin, and I don’t believe, today, that there is an enlargement plan for the Sestri Ponente basin. In other words, after the expansion beyond the railway, Fincantieri will be more competitive in the construction of medium tonnage ships in Sestri, but I don’t believe that it will be able to build units of over 115,000 gross tonnage.”

What is the “next big thing” in the cruise ship sector? External balconies have done very well for a decade. Now many of your competitors (MSC, Royal Caribbean) are trying out the solution of grand internal spaces. What about you?

“It would be difficult to say what the next big thing will be in the future of the cruise ship business and of Carnival. One works in many directions at the same time, and certainly every company, according to its own peculiarities, is developing its own ideas to conquer the market. I don’t think it will be easy to find another revolutionary idea like the balconies right away, but we are studying ways to make our cruises more entertaining, that much is for sure.