Construction on Mein Schiff 4, a cruise ship ordered by TUI Cruises, was underway in Turku last spring.Meyer Werft, the German owner of Meyer Turku Shipyard, is according to information obtained by Helsingin Sanomat in talks with Royal Caribbean over a massive cruise ship contract. If an agreement is reached, the shipbuilding effort would begin in Turku early next decade, creating jobs in the region for years to come.

Jan Meyer, the managing director at Meyer Werft, was on Thursday reluctant to comment on the possible negotiations.

“Royal Caribbean is the second largest cruise operator in the world. Of course, I hope sincerely that they will place an order for new ships with us in the future. There's nothing to report at this moment,” he said.

“We're always glad to sit down with them. We're not in the habit of commenting on our negotiations.”

Meyer Werft in late March announced that it has signed a letter of intent with the largest cruise operator in the world, Carnival, for the delivery of four next-generation cruise ships. Two of the massive ships are to be built in Turku. “The talks over the details are still ongoing. I expect us to be able to confirm the deal as soon as next month,” Meyer commented on the negotiations with Carnival.

The shipbuilding company has yet to disclose the size or price of the cruise ships in question. For example, negotiations over a financing arrangement with Finnvera, a state-owned export financing company, are yet to be wrapped up.

Sources interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat also revealed that the question was on the agenda as the Cabinet Finance Committee convened on Thursday. The Cabinet Finance Committee, for example, discusses the credit arrangements necessitated by large cruise ship orders.

The unit price of the cruise ships is an estimated one billion euros.

The order from Carnival is expected to start creating jobs in Turku at the end of the decade. The rumoured order by Royal Caribbean, in turn, would be fulfilled after the ships ordered by Carnival have been delivered, according to information obtained by Helsingin Sanomat.

Meanwhile, the shipyard will be busy until 2019 with orders from Tallink and TUI Cruises.

On Wednesday, Meyer Werft announced that it has reached an agreement to buy the Finnish Government out of its minority stake in Meyer Turku Shipyard. The shipyard was acquired from STX last September, with Meyer Werft taking a 70 per cent stake and the Government a 30 per cent stake in it through Finnish Industry Investment.

Meyer Werft has refused to disclose the price it paid for the minority stake. “We paid a considerable sum of money. I can assure you that Finland made a profit from the transaction,” its managing director said.

Two of the largest cruise ships in the world have been built in Turku. The first, M/S Oasis of the Seas, was delivered to Royal Caribbean in 2009, while the second, M/S Allure of the Seas, embarked on its inaugural journey a year later.

Eeva Palojärvi – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa-Matti Väärä