Big boys making big toys

In a press release issued yesterday, Aker Yards and Alstom Marine announce their intention to join operations and create a new company, under the Aker banner, to take over operation of the St Nazaire and Lorient ship yards in France. Aker would own the lions share of the new company at 75% and Alstom the remaining 25%, until 2010, when Aker may offer a complete buyout.

Alstom operates Europe's biggest shipyard, Chantier de l'Atlantique at Ste Nazaire, on France's west coast, birthplace of some of the world's most famous cruise liners. Names like Ile de France, Normandie, France and most recently, and the current holder of the World's Biggest passenger ship, the Princess Mary 2, along with 107 other passenger ships. Four more cruise vessels are on order at this massive shipyard, in operation since the 1860's.

Aker Group is one of the world's fifth largest shipbuilder, and operates 13 yards in Norway, Finland, Germany, Romania and Brazil. They are most notably known for highly specialized vessels such as cruise ships. They are currently building two Freedom Class vessels for Royal Carribean, and a third is on order. The Freedom class' Freedom of the Seas, at ~160,000 tons, will take the Biggest Passenger ship afloat title from QM2 in April 2006. Aker Finnyard (pka Kvaerner Masa Yard) also built the five Voyager class ships for RCCL, which held the BPS title for a quite a few years previous to QM2.

The deal is subject to approval requirements, but is expected to close March 2006. Alstom Marine's 3000 employees will merge with Aker's 13000 to form a powerhouse in the cruise and specialty shipbuilding world, no layoff are expected.

Martin Leduc -