In January 2020, the Basque company Oliver Design, dedicated to naval design and architecture, announced an order portfolio with contracts that ensured a good level of activity for the next two years. Some optimistic forecasts that sank with the arrival of the coronavirus two months later.
The firm, based in Getxo (Vizcaya) and with branches in Santander and Cádiz, offers a range of services for shipyards and shipowners, including conceptual ship design, exterior profile, architectural project development, interior design, construction plans, authorization, comprehensive management and supervision of the work.
Its catalog of projects includes nearly 400 boats of the most varied typology: from training ships to pleasure yachts, through transport boats, fishing boats, dredgers, ferries, cruises, etc.
Cessation of contracts
One of the first consequences of the outbreak of the pandemic was the suspension of contracts and the resignation of projects in an advanced phase and nearing completion, such as the cruise liner ‘Lord of the Highlands’.
The port of Vigo (Pontevedra) will see the aforementioned cruise sail to its final destination in the coming days, a journey that has not been easy to start because of the coronavirus.
After 16 months of work invested in the complete reform of the ship, Oliver Design found in March 2020 that the British shipowner who had commissioned the work refused to take over the ship, given the poor prospects of nautical tourism in the midst of the outbreak of the pandemic .
The company was forced to assume ownership of the ship as a method of payment for its services, and to initiate efforts to find a buyer among tour operators around the world. All this at a time when any type of tourist cruise had been suspended due to the health alarm.
After entering into negotiations with Spanish, Greek, North American and Australian shipowners in recent months, Oliver Design has finally closed the sale of the ‘Lord of the Highlands’ with an operator who will give the ship the same destination for which it was remodeled: voyages of few days long through the lakes of the Scottish Highlands and the Orkney Islands.
Specialized in cruises
The new owner of the ship is Hebridean Island Cruises Ltd, a company based in Skipton (Yorkshire, in the North of England) specializing in luxury cruises, whose main asset to date has been the “Hebridean Princess”, another size vessel medium dedicated to exploring the islands off the west coast of Scotland.
Hebridean announced last August the acquisition of the “Lord of the Glens”, a ship very similar to the “Lord of the Highlands”, owned by Magna Carta Steamship Co Limited, the same owner who commissioned this latest project.
The ‘lord of the highlands’ is barely 45 meters long (length of the boat), but stands out for its luxurious design and finish. A true metamorphosis of a passenger ferry between two Mediterranean ports, into a floating luxury hotel that will navigate the lakes, islands and channels of Scotland.
The transformation carried out by Oliver Design has its precedent in a similar work carried out 20 years ago by the Basque firm for the same shipowner, the British company Magna Carta Steamship Co Limited, based in London.
The conversion project has involved unique work in the naval field, especially in the passenger ship segment. At the same time, it has represented a double challenge: on the one hand, its technical complexity, which has implied, among other things, resizing the helmet; and on the other, the careful finishing of interiors that a pleasure boat of the highest standing demands. “Something comparable to what, in the automotive sector, would mean turning an urban transport bus into the most sophisticated and luxurious motorhome”, they point out from Oliver Design.
The redistribution of interior spaces has been from two original rooms, occupied by seats for 700 passengers, to 22 cabins, a spacious lounge-bar and a restaurant. The interior decoration and the provision of services is another of the distinctive elements of the ship, with a design for the cabins inspired by the traditional image of luxury trains.
More than 10,500 working hours
In addition to the exterior design work, interior architectural planning and project coordination in the turnkey mode, the habilitation tasks on board the ‘Lord of the Highlands’ have meant for Oliver Design around 10,500 hours of work, with peaks of up to 20 operators working simultaneously on the boat. Also, the company has led a group of firms specialized in various fields, most of them based in Vigo.
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