• Jason Leppert

Navigating the Saturated Cruise Shipbuilding World

PHOTO: Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas at the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire. (photo by Jason Leppert)

The global cruise shipbuilding scene is both ever changing and rather constant. The major players remain mostly the same, but new orders and technologies push prospects occasionally beyond.

According to a new Seatrade Europe press release, Fincantieri, Meyer Werft and STX France continue to hold the top spots with 29, 17 and 12 ships, respectively on order through 2025. Also moving the dial is the newly formed MV Werften conglomerate owned by Genting Hong Kong with another six ships contracted. During that period, 75 total are set for delivery worth $47.6 billion.

Such a new-build saturation is itself a challenge, however.

Niche players cannot as easily go to the big yards for smaller ships any longer. Notable exceptions include Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn and Viking Ocean Cruises, all of which have vessels on order with Fincantieri. In support of building relatively tiny vessels, at least the former two brands have the backing of large parent companies Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Limited and Carnival Corporation, respectively. Meanwhile, Viking is constructing its intimate ships in a worthier greater volume of up to ten potentially.

Other lines have instead sought out yards entering the cruise industry recently or less familiar with it. Cruise Industry News points out that Hurtigruten’s new pair of expedition ships is being built by Kleven, Uljanik Group has been charged with Scenic’s upcoming Scenic Eclipse and Star Clippers is working with Brodosplit on the new Royal Flyer.

Brodosplit has constructed vessels for Grand Circle Cruise Line previously. Hurtigruten’s existing Finnmarken was also built by Kleven. So, the yard does have some cruise experience as well as other passenger knowhow with yacht building. It is located in Ulsteinvik along with Rolls-Royce Marine, the new ships’ designer. However, Uljanik Group is entirely green to the cruise industry.

READ MORE: Shipyard Preview: MSC Cruises’ New MSC Seaside Under Construction

While the small yards may have the challenge of pulling off cruise ships in general, the large yards have to deal with the latest technologies, mainly liquefied natural gas (LNG) power. Again, according to the Seatrade Europe release, both Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises each have two that are set to use the new powertrain, and Carnival Corp. collectively has seven scheduled with it.

Provided all aforementioned yards, big and small, succeed in their current tasks, they will remain successful in the future. On the other hand, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is up in the air moving forward as it has struggled with deliveries lately.

The new variable is China as Carnival Corp. and the China State Shipbuilding Corporation collaborate on the country’s first new-builds. For the time being, they are focused on constructing vessels for the Chinese market, but eventually the yard may expand to building for other regions and other brands.

READ MORE: Carnival Corporation Orders First Cruise Ships Built in China

Genting Hong Kong is in a similar position. “[Its] purchase of four German yards was driven by its need to find capacity for the ambitious expansion plans it has for its own three brands – Crystal Cruises, Star Cruises and Dream Cruises – but it will also eventually offer a welcome new option for other companies frustrated by the full or fast-filling orderbooks of the other European shipbuilders,” said cruise industry analyst Tony Peisley, in the press release.

Until that time, yard space is still scarce, and Cruise Industry News also recognizes that South Korean cargo shipyards have frequently solicited cruise business with no takers.

It’s easier to take a risk on ordering a small ship from a small yard with next to no experience than it is on the same at a larger scale, though. When a periodic veteran company like Mitsubishi has difficulties with modern mega-ships, no cruise line has felt desperate enough to roll the dice—save for the unique case of all-around booming China.

That could change in time.

This post originally appeared on TravelPulse.

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