STX France lands major luxury liner order


NANTES, France: An ailing French shipyard landed a multi-million-dollar contract Thursday as a US cruise company announced it was ordering a massive luxury liner from STX France at Saint Nazaire.

With the shipyard having failed to secure any major orders for two years, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, a former deputy for the Atlantic coast region, hailed the news praising "the excellence of French know-how in naval construction".

Miami-based Royal Caribbean International said it was ordering a sister ship to its two top-of-the-line cruise liners, the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, with an option on a second vessel.

While the company did not reveal how much the contract was worth, its other two Oasis-class liners, built in Turku, Finland, cost 900 million euros ($1.2 billion) each according to the trade press. They were delivered in 2009 and 2010.

The third vessel may come in at a lower cost given the competition for the contract worldwide.

For the shipyard, which built the transatlantic liners Normandie in 1935 and France in 1960, and more recently the Queen Mary 2 in 2002, it is a return to the big time after four years blighted by the financial crisis.

The contract is worth 10 million working hours distributed over more than three years, Royal Caribbean said.

Studies will start in January 2013 while production is planned to start in September.

"We are extremely proud to have been selected by Royal Caribbean International to build this third unit," STX France managing director Laurent Castaing said in a statement.

"The ship is a real exception in the cruise world as it is highly innovative and spectacular."

Royal Caribbean said its capital spending would be $1.3 billion for 2012; $700 million in 2013; $1.2 billion in 2014 and in 2015; and $1.3 billion in 2016.

The two existing Oasis-class liners are the largest cruise ships in the world, boasting 16 decks and each able to carry 5,400 passengers.

The SXT France yard employs 2,100 people, supporting another 4,000 sub-contractors.

STX France is two-thirds owned by STX Europe, which is a subsidiary of South Korea's STX Shipbuilding.

The other one third of STX France is owned by the French state. Earlier this month, French Economy

Minister Pierre Moscovici had promised to save the Atlantic shipyards by bringing in new contracts. - AFP

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