[SAINT NAZAIRE] US cruise giant Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd Wednesday signed a letter of intent with the French arm of South Korean shipbuilder STX to build three ships in a deal worth 2.5 billion euros (S$3.8 billion), the shipyard said.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after STX France, based in Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast, handed over the world's biggest cruise ship, the 120,000-tonne Oasis-class Harmony of the Seas, to Royal Caribbean.
The three new vessels, one Oasis class and two Edge class for delivery in 2021 and 2022, represent an order worth about "2.5 billion" euros and "22-23 million work hours," said Laurent Castaing, head of STX France.
"This is great news. It is for us the realisation of the customer's confidence even though we have just handed over a ship that was not easy to build," he said.
Royal Caribbean on May 12 took delivery of Harmony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built at 362 metres (1,188 feet) long and 66 metres wide.
It has already ordered a giant sister liner being built at Saint-Nazaire for its Royal Caribbean International subsidiary and has an option for a fifth Oasis-class vessel for delivery in spring 2021.
The US firm is also set to order two new Edge-class vessels for its Celebrity Cruises brand, for delivery in autumn 2021 and autumn 2022.
The three additional ships bring to nine the number of orders booked since the beginning of the year by STX France, after those announced in February and April by Swiss-Italian shipowner MSC, bringing nearly another 75 million hours' work for the shipyard and its subcontractors, according to Mr Castaing.
With five other ships already in the backlog, its order book "is very full until 2023 and full until 2026," he said, with some of the work likely to be outsourced to other yards in Europe to ease the workload and lack of space in the Saint-Nazaire workshops.
STX France is 66.6 per cent owned by STX Europe, a subsidiary of South Korea's STX, and 33.3 per cent by the French state.