Friday, 22 August 2014

An Interview with Dr. Stephen Payne

Dr. Stephen Payne

Dr. Stephen Payne, the Naval Architect and Chief Designer of Queen Mary 2, shot to fame after fulfilling his childhood dream. Stephen was the Vice President and Chief Naval Architect of Carnival Corporate Shipbuilding till 2010 and served the company for 26 years as the designer of many of their ships. He was also the President and Fellow of The Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA), UK. 

Stephen was awarded with SNAME Rear Admiral Land MedalHonorary Doctorate of Science University of SouthamptonOfficer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire OBEMerchant Navy Medal MNMSolent EBP Amazing Person Award, and many others. In 2011, he founded PFJ Maritime Consulting Limited and is presently the Founding Partner of the firm. He also likes to involve himself in interaction with students and after-dinner talks at various youth forums. 

In his interview with us, Stephen shared his experience in designing the Queen Mary 2, and his predictions on the future of the shipping industry. Not only that; he had some message for the youth too!

What was the biggest obstacle during the design of The Queen Mary 2? How did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle was convincing everybody that for transatlantic service a true liner was needed and not just a cruise ship that looked like a liner. The problem was that from moving from a cruise ship to a liner entailed a 40% premium because of the extra power, strength, sea margin and shape considerations. I overcame this through maximising the number of balcony cabins by moving the main public rooms low down in the ship to provide sufficient height for the first passenger cabin deck to be a balcony deck with high revenue cabins.

For the last five years, the graphs of the maritime industry have seen a negative slope. In such scenarios, what qualities do ship design and shipbuilding companies look for, in Naval Architecture graduates? What are the talents that the industry is yet in need of?

The shipping companies, classification societies and shipyards are all looking for graduates that have a grasp of the fundamentals of efficient design with a flair for innovation and thinking outside the box. Everyone is looking at fuel economy from propulsive efficiency and auxiliary load. This will become even more acute as new environmental regulations on NOx and SOx begin to bite and owners have to either switch to more refined and expensive fuels or invest in scrubbing technology or future viable alternatives.

What do you think, is the scope of entrepreneurship for Naval Architects? 

I think the scope for entrepreneurship within naval architecture is vast. You only have to look at recent advances such as air-injection for hull lubrication to realise the scope for future innovation and entrepreneurship is boundless.

From the time you set foot into the ship design and building industry, to now; how has the industry changed in these years? And what changes do you predict in the recent future?

With regards passenger ship design, the biggest change I believe is the proliferation of balcony cabins which began with the introduction of Royal Princess in 1984. Her unique all outside/all balcony design set new standards which has been emulated ever since. The diesel has supplanted steam propulsion across almost all commercial shipping, either with direct drive, geared drive or with electric drive. The gas turbine showed some promise with its incredible power density but the high price of its fuel has seen it decline in recent years. However, the new environmental regulations mentioned earlier may see the turbines show some advantage. The immediate future heralds the potential of LNG but the future must inevitably point towards a compact marinised nuclear reactor –but that’s some way off, not because the technology doesn't exist, but public perception is generally negative at this time. As fossil fuel become scarcer in the future, nuclear will have to be considered as an option. As for the marine industry as a whole, when I joined it in 1985 there was still very much of a “family business” attitude. Sadly, this has largely disappeared as the smaller companies have been absorbed into huge corporations. Business has become more cut-throat and impersonal –but perhaps that’s the price of progress!

What percentage of designers of the Queen Mary 2 were from the younger age group? Did that percent of youth play an important role in the design?

I was 37 when I received the commission to design Queen Mary 2. The marine engineer on the project was somewhat younger, as was the electronics engineer. The structural engineer and safety specialists on the team were of comparable age to me and it was only the two electrical engineers that were older, both being in their fifties and sixties. So, we were a relatively young team that worked well together. Many of the shipyard engineers were relatively young as well.

If there was a debate on Naval Architecture being an Art or a Science, which side would you speak for? And why?

My marine engineering colleagues have always asserted that naval architecture is a “black art”! Whereas Art can be abstract, Science can be defined as a branch of study, concerned with facts, principles and methods. I am therefore firmly in the camp that sees naval architecture as a “Science”! To be successful, a ship has to be designed according to known principles –there’s no room for art when dealing with issues such as stability!


  1. I was sooo impressed when I read about your ship way back in 1998! My bucket list since then! My grandmother took the QE 2 in 1970's and I was so impressed with her venture in the Carribean.

    Las Vegas Review Journal ran a story in December 2003, and I was TOTALL sold!

    Great work! I'm doing the round the world cruise!