German Shipbuilding: Diversified Infrastructure

The German shipbuilding industry has a diversified infrastructure with at least three yards involved with cruise ships: Meyer Werft as a builder of new ships and Blohm + Voss Repair and Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven in repairs and conversions. In addition, Neptun Werft – which is owned by Meyer – builds river cruise vessels and has done drydockings of ocean-going cruise ships.

Competing on Quality and Price

One of the leading cruise ship builders in the world, privately-held Meyer Werft in Papenburg, has seven cruise ships under construction or on its orderbook at the time of writing: the Norwegian Pearl, slated for delivery late this year; the Norwegian Gem and the AIDAdiva, to be delivered in 2007; an unnamed sister ship for AIDA and the first of two sister ships, the Celebrity Solstice, for Celebrity Cruises in 2008; and a third sister ship for AIDA and the Celebrity Equinox in 2008

The three AIDA ships, which will be 68,500 tons and able to accommodate 2,030 passengers, are designed for the German-speaking market.

In addition, Meyer was recently awarded a newbuilding contract from Celebrity for its new Solstice class of ships at 117,000 tons and with a passenger capacity of 2,850, with an option for a second ship. The Celebrity ships are designed for the premium-level market.

Competing against the other larger cruise ship builders in Europe, Meyer attributed its share of the market to its investments in logistics, its state-of-the-art equipment and facilities with covered building docks and laser welding, as well as its know-how and experience. Further investments are being made in computer tools for simulation and planning purposes, said a spokesperson.

With the building docks being more than 1,200 feet long with a width of nearly 150 feet, Meyer is able to build cruise ships up 180,000 tons, said the spokesperson, adding that the Freedom-class could also have been built at the Papenburg-facility.

Conversions and Repairs

Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven and Blohm + Voss in Hamburg specialize in cruise ship conversions and ship repair.

Lloyd Werft has also built cruise ships on hulls built elsewhere and towed to Bremerhaven where the yard does not have the steel capability to build entire ships.

The Costa Victoria, the Norwegian Sun and the Pride of Hawaii were completed at Lloyd Werft.

The yard also has a long history of refurbishing ships, stretchings and re-engining. The liner France was turned into the cruise ship Norway at Lloyd Werft in 1979/1980, while the QE2 was later converted from turbines to diesel power.

Another major product was the addition of balconies to the Costa Victoria and, of course, the completion of the Pride of Hawaii on which the hull construction was started at Ingalls in Mississippi, but never completed when the original owners, American Classic Voyages, went bankrupt. NCL later bought the hull and had it towed to Bremerhaven for completion.

Emergency Repairs

After one of the pods on the 148,000-ton Queen Mary 2 broke down in January, the liner continued her service for several months, but eventually went to Blohm + Voss Repair in May.

The ship has four pods, and the broken pod was removed in a six-day drydock, before the QM2 returned to service. The repaired pod will be installed again during a seven-day drydocking in November.

Blohm + Voss also worked on Fred. Olsen Cruise Line's Boudicca earlier this year and last year installed a new diesel powerplant and upgraded the technical systems on the Black Watch.

Blohm + Voss is part of the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems group, which has separate divisions building (naval) surface vessels, submarines and commercial ships, as well as for repairs of ships.

Specializing in the different aspects of the lifecycles of cruise ships, from newbuilds to conversions, the German yard industry has a diversified infrastructure that should allow it play a key role in the industry in the years to come. – Oivind Mathisen

Excerpt from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2006

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