Offshore Shipbuilder VARD Secures Cruise Ship Order
Norwegian offshore shipbuilders VARD have announced a deal with French luxury cruise company PONANT for the construction of four luxury expedition cruise vessels, for delivery in 2018 and 2019.
With the new agreement, VARD joins the ranks of a growing number of offshore and specialty shipyards looking to expand into the cruise sector. Orders for the OSV, AHTS and subsea construction market have plummeted worldwide, but the cruise ship orderbook looks as strong as ever. The new line of business could be a lifeline for mid-size shipbuilders like Germany's Nordic Yards, whose facilities in Stralsund, Warnemunde and Wismar were recently bought by the cruise group Genting Hong Kong.
The vessels will be based on a series of ships PONANT ordered from Fincantieri between 2010 and 2015. [The first in that series, Le Boreal, was disabled by an engine room fire off the Falklands in November, requiring the helicopter evacuation of 350 people and a heavy lift ship to transport her back to Fincantieri's Genoa yard. PONANT says she will be back in service in May.]
The new vessels from VARD will be expedition cruise ships, designed for voyages to remote ports only accessible to smaller vessels. The series will be ice-classed, of about 10,000 gt and 400 feet in length, with accommodations for 180 passengers and a complement of 110 crew.
Fincantieri, the “reference builder” for cruise ships worldwide, owns a 55 percent stake in VARD, and VARD CEO and executive director Roy Reite said that the contract would allow his firm a chance to utilize the expertise of its majority shareholder.
VARD and PONANT intend to enter into contracts in the second quarter of 2016, subject to several conditions being met, including financing.
Last year, PONANT was purchased by Groupe Artémis, the holding company of the Pinault family. Artémis has significant holdings in luxury, including firms like Christie’s, Château Latour vineyards and the fashion group Kering.