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Cruise shipbuilding industry worldwide - statistics & facts

While the majority of the commercial shipbuilding activity takes place in Asia, the passenger shipbuilding segment is headquartered in Europe. China, Japan, and South Korea, the world’s largest shipbuilding countries, have outperformed Europe in most of the commercial segments, but European shipyards still excel in niche markets such as the cruise, yacht, and military segments. These sectors require an extremely high degree of workforce specialization as well as sophisticated technologies. Within Europe, the main shipyards for cruise vessels are located in Italy, Germany, France, and Finland. Fincantieri is the largest cruise ship builder worldwide, providing vessels for some major cruise lines such as MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises. Despite its status, Fincantieri is not spared the competitive pressure exerted by Asian shipyards. Its plan to merge with France’s largest shipyard, Chantiers de l’ Atlantique, is currently being reviewed by EU antitrust regulators. This move would leave the German group Meyer Werft as its only European competitor.

Consolidation in the shipbuilding industry has been an ongoing trend over the past few years: the number of active shipyards worldwide has halved between 2014 and 2019, mainly as a result of cyclical demand. This is particularly true of the cruise building industry, which has seen its orders decline after peaking in 2017. Specialization is another prominent trend in the global shipbuilding industry. Within the cruise market, the river cruise segment is booming, particularly in Europe. The number of international passengers in European river cruises doubled between 2013 and 2018, and the German market has seen its revenue steadily increase since 2014.

After COVID-19, European shipyards are trying to find ways to cope with the reduction in demand. As of 2019, there were 114 cruise ships in the global order book, but shipyards are unlikely to receive new orders. To compensate for the plunge in demand for cruise vessels, the German Shipbuilding and Ocean Industries Association (VSM) has called for the implementation of an EU-wide public vessel program. Among its objectives, such a program could also see fleet renewal interventions for European commercial vessels. This would come at the right time, as the commercial sector is under pressure to conform to the IMO 2020 regulations with interventions such as scrubber retrofits.

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