In the world of maritime operations, dry-docks play a pivotal role in maintaining and repairing cruise ships of all sizes. These controlled environments provide a safe space for vessels to be lifted out of the water, allowing for thorough inspections, repairs, and refurbishments.

In this interview, we meet Belén Madurga, Port Operations Manager Cádiz at Intercruises, who delves into the intricate details of dry-docks, exploring their significance and the processes involved in ensuring the seaworthiness of these maritime giants.

Belén offers insights into the experiences, challenges, and expertise of someone who has dedicated themselves to orchestrating seamless dry-dock projects for cruise lines over the years, shedding light on the dynamic world of port operations and ship maintenance.

Belén, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from the sunny city of Cádiz, south of Spain, where I pursued studies in the field of tourism, however, my language skills, well recognized among the sea trade companies, presented me with the opportunity to embrace working in a different business, in 1999. I’ve worked in different port agencies, for a stevedoring company, a fishing shipowner, and in various logistics and engineering projects.

How and why did you start working for Intercruises?
I was working in another company and Intercruises’ Cadiz manager called me for an interview. We matched, that was February 2014.

So, that was the start of your exciting journey with Intercruises, but why Port Operations?
Because it is my business, my role, my passion. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. My place is in the maritime business.

Please tell us briefly about your experience working on dry-dock projects.
I started working with dry-dock ships in 2010, and since then, I estimate that I have worked on more than 40 projects.

What type of dry-docking services does Intercruises provide?
When a ship is in her dry-dock period, it undergoes a reform, greater or lesser magnitude, within a very limited time frame. Many companies and sometimes hundreds or even thousands of workers and crew members converge at the same time. There is a lot to do, and everything must be done on time. We assist the shipowner in ensuring that this convergence of people and materials flows smoothly: no logistical, technical, or legal issues. We are their support.

Which are the most in-demand dry-dock services for cruise lines?
I would say transfers, crew handling, and full logistic operations, but it is not just that. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the scope of our work, which is largely unknown. Our role is comprehensive assistance, being there whenever the client may need it. This implies managing all kinds of services, not only purely port-related ones such as docking, tugs, pilots, and everything else that the imagination can encompass, but also other requests such as ambulances, a safe technician, all kinds of local purchases, a piano tuner, a dentist, of course airport transfers, lost luggage, customs-blocked spare parts, or even making a reservation at a fine restaurant for a group of executives. What can they ask of us? Almost anything!

Pictured: Belen (centre left) with her team in Cadiz: Patricia Paz Pavon, Eloy Duckardt, Mathias Buffet, Carolina Colón and Cynthia Ferrari.

How many cruise lines/dry-dock projects have you managed in Cadiz so far this year? 
We normally have one in fall, one in spring and sometimes an additional one in winter. They usually last around 45 days, although preparations begin approximately two months in advance, and the closure of the process typically takes another 2-3 months.

The last one in spring involved a complete vessel conversion as the ship was sold from one shipowner to another. It was a significant project.

Have you identified any changes to the dry-dock season/projects since the cruise industry’s resumption? Any new challenges that you face now that you have not experienced before?
When we returned to work after the pandemic, there were many preventive measures in place that resulted in additional work: conducting PCR tests, medical disembarkations, quarantine isolations, bureaucracy, protocols etc. Fortunately, that is now behind us, and we can say that we are working as we did before. The biggest challenge was finding thousands of antigen tests when they were out of stock.

Dry-docks can be challenging, with the need to complete them all within a limited time frame. What do you think is the key to offering a seamless dry-dock service to cruise lines?
The key factors can be summarized into three: foresight, problem-solving capabilities, and networks. Foresight is rooted in experience; we are aware of the inconveniences or issues we have encountered in the past, and we work on each project with the aim of avoiding them. By anticipating potential problems and addressing them in advance with our clients, we instill a great deal of confidence. Problem-solving capabilities are crucial because, despite our foresight, unexpected events always occur. It is essential to have the power to respond quickly and efficiently. Lastly, networks play a fundamental role. It is not just about knowing what to do, but also knowing who to call, who can make it happen. We are nothing without a reliable supplier network.

Has there been a particularly difficult challenge that you have faced during a dry-dock project?
At the logistical, bureaucracy and customs level, there is no dry-dock challenge free. However, personally, the most challenging aspect has been when we have had to deal with personal tragedies such as fatal accidents.

How was the last dry-dock season? How is it looking so far for 2023/24? In the last few years, cruise ships have continued at a record dry-docking pace, is this something that you think will continue to happen in 2023 and 2024?
I believe that dry-docks have a promising future ahead. Despite the current building of many new ships, driven by the booming cruise industry in recent decades, there is a substantial fleet of active vessels that require ongoing maintenance to remain in optimal condition. This necessitates dry-docking periods every 4-5 years, leading many shipping companies to have one, two, or three of their ships in dry-dock every year.

In our city, there are several factors that make the dry-dock facility appealing, such as the high quality of service provided by the shipyard, pleasant temperatures, accessibility to the city, among others. As of today, the dry-dock agenda for 2023, 2024, and 2025 is already fully booked.

What has been the most funny/entertaining thing that has happened to you during a dry-dock season or project so far?
As you can imagine, we have many anecdotes. I remember when the laundry man came dressed in a tuxedo to pick up the linen because he had escaped from a wedding to provide the service… or during a metalworkers’ strike when the shipyard gate was blocked by a line of burning tires, and the crew officer called me calmly, and stress-free, to ask: is my taxi in front of the fire or behind the fire?

Is there anything about the team managing dry-dock projects in Cadiz that you would like to highlight?
Indeed, experience and commitment are essential, and I would also add dedication and resilience. In this job, we handle high levels of stress, and the team here can manage it with mastery.

Why should cruise lines choose Intercruises for dry-docks?
I would say that beyond our considerable expertise, what truly sets us apart as a company, is our commitment to transparency and integrity. As a global organization, we work towards making these principles an integral part of our business, adhering to the principles of what we call our “Integrity Passport.”

These are the values of our Integrity Passport, and during dry-dock, the ones underlined hold particular significance:

Belén’s journey as Port Operations Manager at Intercruises highlights the indispensable role of dry-docks in preserving and enhancing cruise ships, and as the industry continues to evolve, our dedication to transparency, integrity, and resilience makes Intercruises a reliable choice for cruise lines.

As ships emerge from dry-docks rejuvenated, our teams unwavering commitment ensures that these giants of the sea sail confidently into the horizon.

For more information on our dry-dock management services, please contact us at: