Friday, March 10, 2000

Cunard picks Chantiers de l'Atlantique for
Queen Mary 2
Carnival's Cunard Line announced yesterday that it had signed a letter of intent to build its $700 million super-liner Queen Mary 2 at Alstom's Chantiers de L'Atlantique in Saint-Nazaire, France. The liner is expected to be launched in the last quarter of 2003. Once launched, Queen Mary 2 is intended to fly the British flag, with her homeport being Southampton, England.The news that the ship will be built in France was greeted with "extreme disappointment" by the only U.K. yard to bid on the project, Belfast's Harland & Wolff.

Micky Arison, Chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation , hailed the signing as "a significant milestone in the birth of this unique vessel.''

"Over the last months, " he continued, "our vision of the first true ocean liner to be built in a generation has evolved from a dream to a detailed plan on paper. We are satisfied that the shipyard that created Normandie, France and other legendary liners has the capability to make that dream a reality.''

Chantiers de L'Atlantique has a continuing record of delivering ships of unusual size and style. Recent projects at the yard resulted in large ships for the coastal cruising trade. However, construct ing a purpose-built transatlantic liner will present a different challenge. From the architect's plans to the nature of the steel plating that forms the skin of the hull, a liner differs in most details from the sorts of ships that have been built in the last three decades. Nonetheless, Alstom's officers are confident that their company represents the best choice for Cunard.

"We want to build this magnificent ship because of our history and because of our future,'' said Alstom Chantiers de L'Atlantique Chairman and CEO Patrick Boissier. "We understand the character of the ship they want to build, and we know how to build that kind of ship.''

Cunard Line President and CEO Larry Pimentel said the QM2 will measure over 1,130 feet in length, would have a gross registered tonnage of nearly 150,000 tonnage and willc tower nearly 21 stories in height from keel to masthead, with a gross registered tonnage of nearly 150,000 tons.''

Pimentel stated that QM2 is expected to carry just 2,800 guests, a very small number for a ship of this size, and will have guest-to-crew ratio of about 2-to-1.

"But aside from her sheer size,'' said Pimentel, "`She is a marvel of innovative features, specifically designed for her. For instance, she will be propelled by the world's first four-pod ship propulsion system, utilizing two fixed and two rotating propulsion pods that will enable her to cruise at nearly 30 knots. Inside, she'll have all the dramatic features and grand scale that marked the great liners of the past, enhanced by the latest technology for comfort and convenience. The combination of all of these elements will produce the most luxurious ocean liner ever built.''

A recent agreement with the City of Long Beach, California and its affiliates which operate the original Queen Mary as a floating hotel cleared the way for Cunard Line to use the name Queen Mary 2 .

The final building agreement is subject to several conditions including the finalization of definitive contracts and financing.


Disappointment in Belfast
Harland and Wolff Shipbuilding and Heavy Industries Ltd Chief Executive Officer, Brynjulv Mugaas, said :
"Despite continuing negotiations with Carnival and Cunard up until the very last minute and making significant last efforts to win the contract, it is obviously an extreme disappointment that Harland and Wolff has not secured this order.

"The Queen Mary 2 project represented a tremendous opportunity for Harland and Wolff, for Northern Ireland and for the entire UK maritime industry to benefit from the buoyant cruise ship sector ­ an opportunity which was recognized and fought for by a variety of elected representatives, both local and national.

"I know that this announcement will come as a major concern to all political representatives who have fought so hard on our behalf in this matter to help us get what is permitted under EU rules.

"The price which we submitted for the vessel and the delivery which we were offering, were both competitive.

"Unfortunately, the overall financing package that we were able to offer was insufficient to meet the requirements of the potential customer and severely impacted on our competitive position.

"The overall package forwarded by the U.K. Government came as too little, too late and failed to address to any extent key elements which we had advised were required by the potential customer. What Chantiers de l'Atlantique has received from their government, we do not know.

"This was despite the efforts of DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] in London to work with us to bring forward proposals covering some aspects of the package required to improve our competitive position.

"This contrasts starkly with the lack of ability or desire of local departments to demonstrate any realistic support to the company.

"It is important to stress that the assistance which we were seeking in order to secure the contract and the major economic benefits which it would have brought, were fully in line with existing European rules on aid to shipbuilding.

"To date, the U.K. Government and relevant departments have failed to embrace the potential of the European legislation in the same manner as national governments which recognise the importance of a maritime industry. The impact that this has on the ability of the U.K. shipbuilding industry to compete for major projects is now clear and needs to be urgently addressed if there is to a future for our industry in the United Kingdom.

"We will continue to fight vigorously for all new orders which would provide both immediate and long term workload in order to secure the future of Harland and Wolff.

"The extent to which we are successful in winning such orders will obviously impact on the potential redundancy position."


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