“I LIKE THE FAMILY SPIRIT OF THE CGN”
Appointed Technical Director of the CGN in November 2017, Irwin Gafner has set a new course for his employees. Renewal of the fleet, availability of the boats and sustainable development – his vision involves numerous changes.
INTERVIEW BY THOMAS PFEFFERLÉ
PHOTOS: VANINA MOREILLON
Responsible for 120 technical employees of the CGN since the end of 2017, Irwin Gafner has a clear and ambitious vision for the future of the company. Thoughtful and pragmatic, his project is intended to help the company consolidate its position as the leader on Lake Geneva while satisfying growth and sustainable development needs. Between the construction of the next generation of boats, the renovation of the current fleet and the transformation of the shipyard, the engineer has initiated a number of large-scale work sites.
À TOUTE VAPEUR: You have developed a highly ambitious strategy. Could you explain the main outlines of your project?
Irwin gafner: For the future, our strategy is based on three key focal points: the renewal of the fleet, the availability of our boats and sustainable development. The aim is to be able to meet the increasing demand in the public transport sector. At the same time, we must renovate our historic boats, as the CGN boasts the most prestigious Belle Epoque fleet in the world. We also intend to improve the energy efficiency of our boats in order to reduce their environmental footprint.
What is the main challenge in terms of development and how do you propose to address it?
While the work began several years ago, our fleet requires comprehensive refurbishment. Built more than 40 years ago, certain boats are beginning to show their limitations in terms of performance and capacity. Our main projects include the construction of the first accelerated medium boat, which will be our next boat. With a total capacity of 700 people and 600 seats, it will meet the increased demand for public transport on the lake.
Where will this boat be built and when will it begin to operate?
It is designed in our offices in close collaboration with international partners. The first boat will be assembled in the CGN dry dock in Ouchy. It should be put into service in 2021 on the most popular route, the N1 line between Evian and Lausanne. A second such boat could be built immediately afterwards and be assigned to the N2 line between Thonon and Lausanne. Two other units should then follow in the coming years.
What attracted you to the CGN?
I like the family spirit of the CGN Having acquired experience with three multinationals, returning to a Swiss company on a human scale has brought me back to my roots. The CGN is also a historical company and its prestigious Belle Epoque boats represent an invaluable heritage. Contributing to safeguarding this while modernising the company’s contemporary fleet is a fascinating challenge. Furthermore, renovation work on the famous steamer, the Rhône, will begin in April 2019 with a view to returning to service on Lake Geneva by spring 2021.
1977: He born in Geneva.
2001: He obtains a master’s in Mechanical Engineering from the EPFL.
2002: He obtains a second master’s in Automotive Engineering from the IFP in Paris.
2002-2003: He works for an American automobile equipment manufacturer.
2003-2005: He redevelops the motor activities laboratory at the EPFL, working as a lecturer there until 2017.
2005-2007: He works for Liebherr in Bulle and develops the motor for its mobile cranes.
2008-2017: He works for Holcim and manages production at the Eclépens site while also filing a patent to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from the cement works.
2017: He joins CGN to take over technical management.