After long negotiations and a significant amount of speculation, Royal Caribbean has announced that STX France has won the bid to build their newest Oasis class ship. The company will start drawing up the plans for the new ship in January 2013, ready for the start of construction later in September.
The decision to award the bid to STX France represents a change of direction for Royal Caribbean. The cruise line had previously worked with STX Finland, whose Turka shipyard has produced ships for Royal Caribbean in the past. During 2009 and 2010, STX Finland designed and developed Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas in the Turka shipyard and the company was regarded as the first choice for Royal Caribbean. However, STX Finland had tried to secure a 50 million euro loan from the Finnish government in order to win the bid, but this was turned down. The government offered instead 28.3 million euros, which was not enough to win the bid.
STX Finland is disappointed with the outcome. Martin Saarikangas, the founder of the company that became STX Finland, expressed his disappointment with the actions of the Finnish government, in particular the Minister of Economic Affairs, Jan Varpaavuori, who held a press conference to explain why the government had not lent the 50 million euros to STX Finland. Vapaavuori argued that the state had done all that it could to assist the bid and that Finland would now approach the EU to make sure that STX France had acted in accordance with their rules.
It is understandable why STX Finland is so disappointed with the outcome of the bidding process. Even though Royal Caribbean has not revealed the worth of the contract, it has been said that this is over one billion euros. Indeed, the previous orders placed with STX Finland for Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas cost 900 million euros each. The new Oasis class ship will take up 10 million man hours during the three years of its construction. And even better for STX France, there is a one year option for the construction of a second Oasis class ship for delivery in 2018 if Royal Caribbean chooses.
The French Prime Minister, Jean-March Ayrault, was delighted with the success of STX France’s bid, describing this as ‘oxygen’ and that this gave hope to French industry after years of struggle in the aftermath of the financial crisis. STX France has worked with Royal Caribbean in the past, having built three of its ships and is well-known for constructing the famous Queen Mary 2. This successful bid could represent a change of fortunes for the Saint Nazaire shipyard, which has not been successful in winning any major bids in the last two years. The construction of the Oasis class ship is an extensive project. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class vessels are the largest ships in the world, each housing 16 passenger decks and able to hold 5,400 passengers.