SH Diana Delivered Leaving Uncertainty for Helsinki Shipyard
The third and final cruise ship built by Helsinki Shipyard, the SH Diana, for Swan Hellenic has been delivered and is on her delivery voyage before entering service. Changes in the design reflect the desire to add versatility to the ship and as she heads off from Helsinki she leaves uncertainty in her wake as the last new ship order for the shipyard which will now focus on repairs and the luxury yacht segment.
Helsinki Shipyard received the order for the third cruise ship in October 2020 as one of the few new cruise ship orders placed during the pandemic. The yard viewed the order along with the first two from Swan Hellenic for expedition cruise ships as part of the rebirth of the yard after having been sold to a new investor group. Swan Hellenic was also being reborn as a brand after having been acquired by investors that sought to use the historic name known as one of the pioneers in education and expedition cruising.
The SH Diana was handed over to Swan Hellenic on March 31 in Helsinki and departed the following day. She is currently transiting the Kiel Canal in Germany sailing to Gibraltar before arriving in Italy where she will begin cruising. She will return to Amsterdam at the beginning of May for a christening ceremony before beginning her first season of cruises in Scandinavia and into the Arctic.
She is one of the last cruise ships on order for the expedition segment of the industry as more of the focus on new orders moves toward luxury cruising. The SH Diana is larger than her first two sisters, at 12,100 gross tons and 410 feet in length versus the SH Minerva and SH Vega which are 10,700 gross tons and 337 feet in length. Passenger capacity was increased from 152 to 192 passengers with a crew of 140.
"We are delighted to welcome this exceptionally beautiful and versatile new 5-star ship," said Swan Hellenic CEO Andrea Zito. "As the largest ship in our fleet, SH Diana is the first to be equipped with large tender boats as well as Zodiac boats, offering guests a wide range of exceptionally immersive experiences that others do not."
Swan Hellenic faced challenges in launching its cruise ship. The company contracted with Russian finance firm GTLK to build and charter the ship. However, GTLK was caught by sanctions on Russian financial institutions. Helsinki Shipyard was able to declare GTLK in default and hold tenders to sell the second and third ships to Swan Hellenic which arranged new financing. The cruise line reports it exercised the purchase option for the first ship, SH Minerva, but the vessel remains laid up in Uruguay while the firm works to complete the transfer from GTLK’s ownership.
Helsinki Shipyard recently confirmed media reports that it is in discussions with Davie Shipyard of Canada to acquire the Finnish company’s assets. Helsinki Shipyard had received an order to build a large Russian icebreaker but the Finnish government later denied an export license due to the war in Ukraine and EU sanctions. The yard has not been able to secure new commercial building contracts and instead is providing maintenance work with for example a sail racing yacht recently arriving as well as launching an expanded offering for luxury yachts.
Davie is reportedly interested in Helsinki Shipyard because of its long history and experience building Arctic ships. In addition to the icebreakers, the first two Swan Hellenic cruise ships were built to P5 class while the SH Diana was stepped down to P6 class. Media reports in Finland said Davie is working to obtain the necessary agreements from the Finnish government before finalizing the deal to buy the assets of Helsinki Shipyard.