Rebecca Moore thinks European cruise operators should be looking closer to home when it comes to construction
Of late, European cruise operators have focused on growing cruise ship construction in Chinese shipyards – but there are smaller shipyards in Europe that have recently started building cruise ships and offer advantages to operators willing to divert their focus back to the EU.
One force that prompted operators to move their attention and money towards China was the lack of available capacity in major European shipyards due to overly full orderbooks. It has created a gap, and China has certainly helped fill this.
The growing number of construction contracts – including for Carnival Corp’s two cruise ships – is testament to the growing role of Chinese shipyards. And there is no doubt that shipowners are benefiting from Chinese shipyards’ competitive costs.
But European cruise operators could be looking closer to home when it comes to construction.
There are smaller shipyards in Europe which have lost work due to the downturn in the offshore market, and so are eager to expand into cruise ship construction. There are others which aim to use their experience of ferry construction to move into cruise shipbuilding.
There is a strong argument for choosing some of these yards over Chinese options.
The lack of cruise ship building knowledge in China means most projects use European contractors for the interior design, outfitting and technical equipment needs of the project. This involves cost control, scheduling and organising complex supply chains.
I am not denying that European shipyards new to cruise building may also need some outside help – but look at the difference in the supply chain:
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection newbuilds mark Spanish shipyard Hijos de J Barreras’ entry into the cruise market. And there is a cruise interiors gap in knowledge to be plugged. But in this instance, superyacht outfitter Interior Proman is being used. The proximity between Austria, where Interior Proman is based, and the shipyard in Spain must make interaction easier, save costs, and create a much simpler supply chain compared to covering thousands of miles between Europe and China.
On another subject, these smaller European shipyards have already proved their capability of building cruise ships with alternative power propulsion. We have yet to see Chinese yards do the same.
For example, Norwegian yard Kleven turned its attention to cruise ships after the collapse of the offshore vessel market. It won the contract to build Hurtigruten’s newbuilds Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen. These game-changing vessels will be the first cruise ships in the world to run on battery-hybrid power. This is a huge achievement from a yard that has never built cruise ships before.
Another example is Abeking & Rasmussen shipyard in Germany. The shipyard has not yet built a cruise ship but is designing a cruise ship that will use both fuel cells and methanol with the aim to be as free of emissions as possible.
Using a Chinese yard undoubtedly offers benefits, but the European shipyards that have recently entered or plan to enter cruise construction are a trick not to be missed for European operators.