Perfecting Provision Stores and Layouts on Ships
Antonio Ferrando,Provision Store Expert at ALMACO Group, explains the key factors behind creating optimal provision stores and layouts.
What are the three most important things to consider when creating provision stores and layouts?
Let me start by emphasizing these three things: flow, maximum food preservation, and customization. These three are really the key when we are taking about creating an optimal layout of provision stores and galleys for a customer.
Flow: The layout has a direct and major impact on the flow in an area. A layout with a good flow ensures that the traffic works efficiently when the food is arriving onboard the ship. The food should be taken care of and stored as fast as ever is possible. Food should never be kept waiting in the wrong place, not when arriving onboard, not when transferred between stations, provision stores, galleys and on to the dining areas, nor when its’s eventually transported back to the washing areas and the food waste stores. The current in the flow must be strong and obstacle-free throughout the journey.
Maximize preservation: Each provision store must have the correct arrangement inside the room to ensure that the temperature is correct in all parts of the space, e.g. the air cooler needs to be located in a place that ensures that the air can circulate evenly in the whole room, also when the provision store is filled to the max. The arrangement inside the provision store should prevent wrong usage of the space and guide the crew to use it correctly intuitively. When the flow in the layout is well planned, it means that the work is fast and efficient, the food preserves longer, and the work environment is safe and comfortable for the crew.
Customization: When it comes to provision store and galley layouts, one layout does not fit all owners. The owners have different ways and preferences when it comes to storing, preparing, serving, and disposing of food. Some owners always want their cold stores to be almost identical across the fleet to ensure crew members can swap between ships and still find their way around. Others are fine with new layouts for new ships. Some owners prefer shelves instead of pallets in cold stores, others want the opposite. Some owners have specific rooms dedicated to specific foods, such as caviar rooms, banana rooms, flower rooms or ice cream rooms. Others are willing to keep more types of food in the same room and make some compromises with temperature. The important thing is to know the customers and their preferences, and to have enough experience to be able to help and give advice when needed. All this, while respecting and considering the ways that the owner and crew is used to working.
What are some things to watch out for in provision stores?
I already talked about the importance of good flow and correct arrangement inside the provision stores, so I will not repeat that, although that’s where most mistakes are typically done. Instead, I will talk about the importance of giving enough attention to details when planning a provision store. Things like choosing the wrong solutions for coolers, fire doors, ventilation, flooring, and wall panels can cause a lot of problems, especially as the ship gets older.
Durable floor: We recommend using 3/5 reinforced anti-slip stainless steel floors that endure 2.5 – 4.5 ton, depending on the owner and whether forklifts are used in the area. After 20 years, we have seen that it’s the most durable and long-term cost-efficient alternative. It’s also the safest choice for the crew.
High-quality fire doors: Low-quality fire doors can cause problems. The fire doors that we recommend are developed by ALMACO together with our long-term partner Porkka. The doors are very strong and extremely efficient, both when it comes to stopping fires and when it comes to keeping a stable temperature inside the provision stores. Whether the wanted temperature is +2 or -28 degrees Celsius (+35.6 or -18.4 degrees Fahrenheit), these fire doors have a big impact on food preservation and energy consumption.
Sufficient ventilation: A quite common problem that we have encountered when we come in to modernize provision stores, is insufficient ventilation between the panels and the steel construction. This causes formation of condensation in the ceiling and outside the cold stores, which results in infiltration of water. When it’s time for inspection, the unsuspecting crew member that opens the ceiling panels is greeted by an unwanted shower.
What new trends do you see in provision store layout and technology?
There is an increased demand for smart energy-saving solutions to reach sustainability, quality, health, and safety demands. This trend is true for all catering areas of the ship, not just for provision stores. Easy preventative maintenance and replacement of components is becoming even more important as well.
Ozonizers in provision stores for preservation: One interesting trend in provision stores that has re-emerged is the use of so called ozonizers in provision stores for fruits and vegetables. Inserting ozone into the provision stores prolongs the lifetime of the food. It’s a very clever way to make sure the food stays eatable for a longer time and to reduce food waste. The technology isn’t new though, we have seen this on the market already 10 years ago.
Special provision stores: Regarding special provision stores, we can definitely see that more and more owners are leaning towards using special “earmarked” provision rooms dedicated for specific foods and other perishables. It is the best way to ensure that everything is stored at the exact right temperature. On the other hand, in some cases it’s still more cost-efficient to simply order smaller amounts of a particular food and make compromises with the temperature. Especially when the needed amount is quite small and sporadic. Still, when we do pre-development with new owners, we always propose using special provision stores to ensure best possible food preservation.
USPH standards – does it make sense for all ships to conform?
There is no real reason, other than cost, not to fulfill USPH (United States Public Health) standards in provision stores and other catering areas. Ships that go to the USA must have it with all the certification and approvals that it requires. Many owners that don’t intend to sail to the USA, still request equivalent solutions, even if they don’t intend to fill in the paperwork. The demands stated by the USPH standards are relevant and important for all owners, not just in order to get a certificate, but to ensure the food preparation process and equipment is healthy, safe, and easy to clean and maintain. One example of this is Viking Line, who only sails in Northern Europe. They requested USPHS compliant solutions for the catering areas of their newbuild Viking Glory, although it’s not demanded of them.
Whether or not USPH is required, ALMACO always recommends that catering areas fulfil sufficient standards regarding health, safety, and cleaning. The panel joints have to be tight enough and the corners should be rounded to avoid dirt getting stuck. The same goes for all the shelving and the furniture. We promote equipment that is easy to clean, e.g. plates and components that can be removed and washed in the dishwasher.
Another USPH standard that we always recommend for all projects is sufficient and good quality lighting. A provision store should have 220 lux in order to have enough illumination for reading labels, cleaning, and working in the room. Lighting has a big impact on the well-being of the crew.
How important is solid knowledge and experience?
I have been working for ALMACO for 31 years now, part of it was even before the Catering division was acquired from MacGregor. ALMACO has the longest experience of catering solutions for the marine industry in the whole market and this is something that we are very proud of. Not many companies are able to provide expertise in galleys, provision stores and refrigeration machinery – all in the same company. And both from the yards’ and the owners’ perspective, it’s a clear advantage to work with a company that can take on and understand the requirements of all these areas. When you make a layout for provision stores, I believe it’s a must to have deep knowledge on how to combine it with the requirements of the galleys and refrigeration machinery areas. It’s the only way to truly achieve a holistically functioning layout and ALMACO knows how to do this.
During the time I have been working for the company, ALMACO has provided provision stores for over 200 passenger ships and built more than 9000 cold stores. We are always striving to improve with every ship that we make. We have the best partners in the industry and have participated in the product development together with them. Our customers keep coming back because they trust us and know that they can leave everything in our hands. We take care of them from the very beginning all the way to repairs and modernizations and we consider ourselves very lucky to have long-term friendships with our customers and partners. Together we create catering magic.