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Block being laid for the Costa SerenaWhile cruise-ship building is concentrated at four yards in Europe, repairs and refurbishments take place on a broader scale, usually near where the ships are sailing.

But the repair business may be consolidating into fewer yards as well, as the builders are also looking to get into the repair and maintenance side of the business; as the ships are getting so big that fewer yards have the capability to drydock them; and as Homeland Security makes it more difficult for foreign subcontractors to work in the U.S. In addition, Princess Cruises is on a five-year drydocking schedule, and other cruise lines are considering following suit.

Giuseppe Messina knows that a lot can go wrong when building a cruise ship. That’s why Fincantieri’s project manager for Carnival Cruise Lines’ newbuildings (which recently completed the $450 million Carnival Liberty in Monfalcone) places such high priority and importance on one thing: proactive risk management. “As you can imagine, designing and building a project like the Carnival Liberty involves huge risks, especially in the globalized context,” Messina said.

While the order flow may fluctuate, cruise lines are staying in close contact not just with the yards that are building their ships, but also with the other building yards. “Everybody is keeping all doors open,” according to one yard source. “While owners may have preferential relationships, orders can never be taken for granted, and all the owners keep their relationships with different yards alive,” he said. “They maintain a 360 degree horizon, but at the same time both the yards and the owners recognize the benefits of continuity,” he added.

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