Engine parts for cruise ships

Case Study

11 September 2017

Technical buyer for Carnival UK

Bethan works in the technical department of cruise company Carnival UK, buying anything and everything that keeps the ship moving and the passengers safe.

Tell us about your job

Carnival sells experiences to its customers. I am responsible for providing operational cover across our fleet of ships to ensure the correct parts are sourced in compliance with Carnival UK policies and the relevant legal requirements while ensuring best commercial value wherever possible.


How did you get into this job?

I started off studying accounting. However I was looking for an exciting career change and secured a job as a buyer for the NHS. After a couple of years progressing within the NHS, I wanted to broaden my skills and knowledge and applied for a buyer role at Carnival UK.


What skills do you need?

On top of commercial negotiation skills, you also need to be pragmatic, capable of innovative thinking, have good communication and organisation skills along with being able to react and adapt to change.

What’s an average day like?

I spend quite a lot of time talking to people on the phone – sourcing the ship’s requirements and negotiating on quotations received, looking for alternative products that offer cost savings or increased efficiencies. I might attend a meeting with internal and external stakeholders to discuss upcoming issues and highlight new sourcing opportunities. I also speak regularly with my supply based – on the phone and face-to-face – to ensure a good working relationship. And I visit the ships when they are in port to check they have everything they need.


What is the most unusual thing you have bought?

I buy everything from engine parts to vacuum toilet systems. Coming from the NHS into the marine industry, everything is unusual to me but not to the industry.


What is the most interesting thing you have bought, and why?

Engine parts fall within a high-risk, high-value area, that have the greatest impact and can potentially cause the ship to stop. The parts I buy range from fuel injectors and turbo chargers to cylinder heads and liners. A ship like the Queen Victoria has six engines, with either 12 or 16 cylinders each, and totalling 63MW engine power. There is a lot to learn in understanding the relevant parts and how the engine runs so that the impact can be fully understood.

Obsolete items are the most difficult to source.
Sometimes a part that has never been requested
before is needed. When it is for a ship that is 20 years old,
this calls upon sourcing skills and communication
with stakeholder and partners to find an alternative suitable for the job.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do your job?

Our ships travel all across the world and things are changing all the time so you’ve got to be able to keep up with the fast pace, be proactive and manage your workload efficiently.


What are the career prospects in this job?

There are clear progression paths to senior buyer and category manager within the levels and also across the various commodities within the technical department. There are also opportunities to move into indirects, food and beverage and hotel as we partner with all areas of the business.


Where next?

I have recently completed my level 4 AAT accounting qualifications and started level 4 CIPS qualifications. I would like to become a senior buyer working up to being a category manager and head of department.


Tell us something interesting about your business

Carnival UK is the leading cruise brand in the UK with the P&O brand, travelling to 282 ports in 73 different countries across six continents throughout 2017. It’s a fast growing industry with a total of almost 24 million people worldwide choosing a cruise experience throughout 2017 so far.

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