COP26 Floating Hotels: Behind-the-Scenes Success Story

LK COP26 team Glasgow

A highly anticipated global climate conference has taken up all hotel accommodations in a Scottish port city, leaving no available rooms for thousands of security staff, AV technicians, and other essential workers. The conference is just weeks away. If you were the organizers, what would you do? There was only one viable solution: bring in “floating hotels” to provide supplemental housing for the two week event.

As the October 31, 2021 opening date for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow rapidly approached, the whole world was watching. It took “all hands on deck” teamwork, creative problem-solving skills, flexibility, and swift action to orchestrate this successful two-ship dockside charter project.

How it Began

At Landry & Kling Global Cruise Services, we don’t shy away from complex accommodation ship charters; in fact, we specialize in these types of long-term projects. After we brokered a cruise ferry to house 1,000 police officers at the G7 Summit in Cornwall last June and managed the complicated logistics onsite, we were ready to take on the next big project. And this one was huge! 

We jumped into action to source available ships, and called upon Inchcape to recommend and screen port facilities in and around Glasgow. The selection of ships started with the RFP, which we created with input from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The RFP was then sent to multiple ship operators and resulted in nine solid recommendations. 

Race Against the Clock: Ships Sourced in Rapid Time

The conference organizers chose two cruise ferries that normally sail in the Baltic, the Tallink Romantika and Silja Europa, both operated by Estonia-based Tallink Grupp. Together, the two ships provided almost 2,000 sleeping cabins and catering services to support the organizers’ workforce. But the timing was tight. 

Silja Europa docked in Glasgow during COP26
Silja Europa docked in Glasgow during COP26

The first ship, Europa, was chartered 60 days prior to the start of COP26. At that point, the Foreign Office had not determined whether or not they would need more rooms. With less than two weeks lead time before the start of the conference, a second ship charter was requested. This was the shortest notice we’ve had in the history of our company! And it was no simple task. Romantika – already on its way from Morocco to Estonia – had to change course and sail to Glasgow, where more challenges awaited us.

The pressure was on for everyone involved with the project. The government suppliers who had chartered the ship, Tallink Grupp, Inchcape, and Landry & Kling all joined forces and worked feverishly to gain clearances, get the crew flown in, procure local provisions, get gangways in place and organize port facilities.

The L&K COP26 team onboard Silja Europa, from left: Wendy Christophers, Joyce Landry, Kelly Battles, Samantha Grange

Seamless Onsite Collaboration

Landry & Kling's Kelly Battles with Inchcape team Silja Europa in background
Kelly Battles with members of the Inchcape team, Silja Europa in the background

A key component of Landry & Kling’s broker / advisor service is researching, identifying, and proposing vessels. We accomplished that in record time for the COP26 project, but our work didn’t stop there! Our operations team were onsite both ships throughout the charter period to manage logistical elements and actively troubleshoot all issues.

Meanwhile, Inchcape provided critical port agency services. These included arranging clearances for the vessels to arrive at port, dealing with port authorities, handling customs and immigration issues, and ensuring quality, health, safety, security and environment standards were met for the ships and all those onboard. 

The result? Landry & Kling Global Cruise Services and Inchcape Shipping Services proved to be indomitable partners as our teams worked “hand in glove” to successfully pull off what we both agreed was our companies’ most challenging charter project ever.

Onsite Challenges 

The Landry & Kling COP26 team in Glasgow
The Landry & Kling COP26 team in Glasgow, from right: Kelly Battles, Joyce Landry, Gretta Roque, Maria Moutsatsos, Seamus McErlean

Sourcing two ships and deploying them to Glasgow in record time was a tremendous accomplishment. But that was just the first of several logistical challenges and unexpected issues that Landry & Kling and Inchcape faced together and rapidly resolved.

The Ports: The ships were docked 15 minutes apart in two different cargo ports – King George V and Inchgreen. Both ports required Inchcape’s resources to rapidly repurpose them in order to accommodate cruise ship passengers. This included installing security marquees and providing passenger gangways. And, as neither port was within walking distance to the conference site, our team worked with Inchcape and the charterers to coordinate a system of minivan and bus services, including a bus service that ran every half hour to a large shopping center to handle shopping needs.

King George V dock Glasgow-repurposed for COP26
The logistics operation at COP26 required repurposing of the King George V dock at Glasgow port where the Romantika was docked Photo: Inchcape Shipping Services

Ensuring Safety During Covid: Passenger processing was complicated by the Covid-19 situation. Masks were mandatory and daily Covid tests were required for everyone onboard. Anyone who exhibited Covid-like symptoms was given a PCR test immediately. If it was positive, that person would be whisked off the ship and accommodated in isolation until they were cleared to go back to work.

COP26 Security for Silja Europa
Day shift security gather on Silja Europa car deck

Security: Ironically, another last-minute onboard demand was providing security for the security staff. The ships needed 24/7 security because security personnel housed onboard were working two 12-hour shifts and had to be ensured safe and quiet accommodations.

Landry & Kling and Inchcape coordinated with the company that provided the conference security teams. They put together a separate team to patrol Romantika’s hallways and elevators.

Catering to Cultural Diversity: Prior to COP26, we were told that 15% to 20% of the passengers might have special dietary requirements that could be satisfied with fish and vegetarian options. But once onboard, we discovered that close to 80% of guests required halal meals. Along with Tallink and Inchcape, we scrambled to find halal provisioning locally in Scotland. Within 48 hours, we were able to source everything the chef needed to provide halal cuisine and all guests were happy.

Laundry Service: Another unexpected issue: Since both cruise ferries normally operate short cruises, neither ship provided laundry service onboard, so this also had to be outsourced locally. This resulted in regular truck arrivals to load laundry by crane on and off both vessels.

Weathering the Storms: Volatile Scottish weather presented a new set of urgent challenges one night as winds and rain battered both ships.This resulted in damage to a Romantika gangway and the more exposed ship, Silja Europa, was nearly ripped from its moorings. Once again, Inchcape came to the rescue by procuring two tugboats to push Europa against the dock.

Romantika docked during COP26. Image from Inchcape.
Romantika docked in King George V port during COP26. Image courtesy of Inchcape.

Broker / Advisor Ship Solutions

When additional rooms are required for major conferences, global sporting events, or workforce housing, passenger ships, accommodation barges and other seagoing vessels present a turnkey solution. But using ships as floating hotels requires a unique set of skills and diverse network of global contacts. 

LK Team member Gretta Roque onsite ship COP26
Landry & Kling team member Gretta Roque working onsite during COP26

That’s where Landry & Kling comes in. Our clients rely on us to pave the way as we streamline the process for them, from contracting through pre-planning, and ultimately onsite, including the registration platform that handles all the bookings. In the debrief we had with both COP26 charterers, they said they didn’t know the scope of our involvement until we were working onsite, but according to the organizers, “they couldn’t have done it without us”.  

Need to charter a ship to accommodate your group, event attendees, or workforce team? We’re here to help you make it happen! Contact Landry & Kling, give us a call at 786-594-0732, or send an email to


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