“We believe the cruise market will continue to grow,” Julin said, “and we need additional yard capacity to build more ships and bigger ships. Our Finnish yards are fully booked to 2008.”
Clearly, Julin knew what he was talking about, because shortly after announcing the merger with Chantiers de l’Atlantique, Aker signed a contract to build a new 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger ship for Royal Caribbean International. Called , the ship, which will cost an estimated $1.1 billion, is slated for delivery in fall 2009.
The contract, said to be the highest price ever in the history of commercial shipbuilding, includes an option for a sister ship.
Meanwhile, the three 158,000-ton Freedom-class ships for Royal Caribbean are being built at the Turku yard, while ferries and other vessels are being built at the smaller Helsinki and Rauma facilities. In addition, Aker Finnyards is designing a new cruise ship for Norwegian owners, Color Line, and, according to Ocean Development, the Four Seasons Ocean Residences condominium-ship project is also moving ahead.
In Saint-Nazaire, Chantiers de l’Atlantique has four new ships under contract for MSC Cruises, for deliveries through 2009.
Aker Yards’ acquisition of Alstom’s shipbuilding business mirrors the consolidation among the cruise lines, which has resulted in essentially three big players. Now, there will be three yard companies concentrating on cruise-ship building: Fincantieri, Aker Finnyards (in Finland and France) and Meyer Werft.
The combined orderbooks for cruise ships for Aker Finnyards and Chantiers de l’Atlantique count nine ships and 1.4 billion tons, for estimated contract values of $6.5 billion for deliveries through 2010.
The goal, according to Aker, is “to create a world leader in shipbuilding and to share in the expected strong growth in cruise shipping and to meet the anticipated demand for post-Panamax ships.” – Oivind Mathisen