Shipbuilding Aficionados: Big Merger!

January 4, 2006

While most consumer-oriented cruise publications would likely not delve into this business story, Cruise Critic readers are a different lot and so we'll tell you: Norway-based Aker Yards (parent company of Finland's Aker Finnyards) has acquired French-based Alstom, owner of the famed Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard. The two combined
now make up the world's second biggest cruise ship builder behind the mighty Fincantieri, based in Italy.

Aker Finnyards has built some revolutionary ships, such as Royal Caribbean's Voyager class of vessels and that line's Freedom of the Seas, the world's newest biggest-ever ship, which is under construction in Turku as we speak. It has also built Crystal Symphony and those ships in Carnival's Spirit and Fantasy classes (though under Kvaerner Masa-Yards, its previous name).

Alstom's Chantiers de l'Atlantique is also responsible for the construction of some pretty significant contemporary vessels, such as Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Celebrity's Millennium class, Crystal Serenity and Radisson Seven Seas Mariner. The yard, based in St. Nazaire, France, is currently working on four ships for MSC Cruises.

Fincantieri, as you may recall, is the Italian powerhouse that pretty much has a lock on the Carnival Corporation vessels, ranging from Holland America to Carnival and from Costa to Princess.

Quiet today in light of this announcement is the other major cruise ship builder: Germany's Meyer Werft, which is located in Papenburg, and is currently the favorite of Norwegian Cruise Line. Pride of Hawaii and its Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Gem are currently in various stages of construction there.

What does this mean for cruise travelers? "Right now, it has little effect on cruise travelers," says Teijo Niemela, publisher of Cruise Business Review, which chronicles industry business. But the deal may, he notes, give cruise line owners some heartburn as prices for ships will inevitably increase because of this consolidation of shipbuilders -- and at the same time increase efficiencies and profits for Aker and Alstom.