Engineering need not be cold and bloodless. It must be precise, of course, and all the other things that befit a science. But in the judgment of his peers, Harri Kulovaara is not only an engineer. He’s an artist.
Royal Caribbean’s executive vice president of maritime and newbuild is this year’s recipient of the Elmer A. Sperry Award, a highly prestigious honor recognizing feats of engineering that, as proved in actual use, have “advanced the art of transportation whether by land, sea or air.”
It’s presented jointly by the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers – which nominated Kulovaara – as well as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, SAE International, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Presented nearly every year since 1955, the award is named for the American inventor and entrepreneur called the “father of modern navigation technology,” best known as co-creator of the gyrocompass and founder of the Sperry Gyroscope Company.
The Sperry Board of Award unanimously voted Kulovaara recipient of the 2016 honor based on his pursuit of “Safety Through Innovation” and for introducing unique industry firsts that enhance the primary objective of cruise ships – attracting customers while raising the ships’ efficiency, safety and environmental performance.
Kulovaara led the development and production of the world’s first smartship – the technologically brainy Quantum of the Seas. He led the design and innovations that resulted in the world’s largest cruise ships – the revolutionary Harmony, Oasis and Allure of the Seas. He is also the creative force behind Celebrity Cruises’ five Solstice class ships, heralded for their stunning and stylish design. And he also recently led the revitalization of the Azamara Club Cruises fleet, which included updated staterooms and suites, spa and tech.
Much more is in the works. Kulovaara is leading the creation of Celebrity Cruises’ reimagined Edge class, which will begin sailing in 2018.
And he is the driving force behind Royal Caribbean International’s recently announced Icon class of ships, which will be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and fuel cell technology to dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions.
In the kind of symmetry that tends to please engineers, an earlier Sperry Award went to Leslie J. Clark for his contributions to developing marine transport of LNG.
A naval architect with a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from the Technical University of Helsinki in Finland, Kulovaara now takes his place among other luminaries whose names may not be famous outside of their fields, but whose works are.
Just a sampling includes the invention of the radial tire, the first successful automatic car transmission, the VW Bug, the first jet-powered passenger airplanes, the Concorde supersonic transport, the anti-lock braking system, the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the space docking interface system.
In addition to being the chairman of RCL’s Maritime Advisory Board, Kulovaara is a founding member of the Cruise Ship Safety Forum and current chairman of its steering committee.