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October 28 2010

Allure departure leaves big hole in shipyard backlog

STX Europe's Turku Shipyard today delivered the Allure of the Seas to Royal Caribbean International. The departure of the giant cruise ship leaves the Turku yard - and the Finnish maritime cluster - with a severely depleted backlog.

The Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas are the culmination of more than 40 years of product development cooperation between the cruise line, the shipyard and the Finnish maritime cluster. The Oasis class vessels are 361 m in length, and their gross tonnage is 225,000. The Allure of the Seas can accommodate 6,360 passengers at maximum. In comparison, the Song of Norway delivered to the same customer in 1970 was 168 m long with a gross tonnage of 18,400; in other words, the Allure of the Seas is some 12 times as large.

It has been calculated that the Allure of the Seas project has provided the shipyard and the maritime cluster with 12,000 man-years worth of employment. The ship was almost entirely designed in Finland, and the furnishing were also primarily of Finnish origin. In addition to STX Europe, almost 900 maritime cluster companies were involved in building the Allure of the Seas. The competitive edge of STX Europe as the builder of large and sophisticate cruise liners is based not only on the yard's know-how and commitment to quality but also on the existence of a versatile maritime cluster in Finland and Europe. Turku Shipyard operates on an assembly shipyard concept, where the vessels are assembled and finished at the shipyard, while a significant share of the work is carried out by other Finnish maritime cluster companies with STX Europe playing an important project management role.

The Oasis class cruise ships are the most expensive individual export products ever delivered from Finland.

While STX Europe recently announced a preliminary agreement with Viking Line for the construction of a new generation cruise ferry, that deal has come too late to prevent a significant gap in production at the Turku Shipyard. Newspaper Helsinginin Sanomat reports that with the Allure of the Seas gone, the yard will be "almost completely silent."

It quotes Jari Aalto, head shop steward at STX Europe Turku as saying that, in spite of the new order by Viking Line, "almost all of our people will be furloughed. The first will come back to start building a new ship possibly next summer or autumn."

The new Viking Line ship will be just a quarter of the size of the Allure.It promises 2,600 man-years employment, compared with the 12,000 provided by the giant cruise ship. "If we wanted to guarantee full employment at the shipyard, it would require orders for four or five ships of that size. This is a good start, but not enough," Mr. Aalto told the newspaper.

"A month ago we had more than 1,000 employees here, and now 450 of them are somewhere else," he said.

The newspaper says that at present about 1,200 STX Europe employees are on either temporary or permanent redundancy.

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