An intriguing international partnership
A few months ago in “Message From the Bridge” I covered the potential impact on maritime trade of the international trade war initiated by President Donald Trump, particularly with regard to US-China relationships.
The trade war tensions continue with further US tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by the US in August and more planned during September while this issue of Sea Breezes was going to print. Chinese officials have responded bullishly by saying that time is on their side and that China’s growing trade with other world regions may, over time, reduce its dependence on the US market. For example, estimates suggest that in five years time, trade with Africa may top USD500 billion.
Against this backdrop of international tension, it was intriguing to read about the international partnership agreement signed by the famous Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri with the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) – one of China’s largest shipbuilding conglomerates. The signed Memorandum of Understanding promises co-operation across all shipbuilding sectors, including cruise, oil and gas and mega-yachts.
Over recent decades, Fincantieri has grabbed a significant share of the burgeoning demand for new and groundbreaking cruise vessels, with the MSC Seaview recently coming off the production line as the largest ever cruise ship built in Italy – at over 300m long and 153,000 gross tons. Together with CSSC, a contract was signed earlier this year with Carnival – one of the world’s largest cruise firms – for the construction of two new ships to be built in Shanghai.
This agreement with CSSC is a dramatic move by the Italian shipbuilder, whose progress I have followed closely since visiting one of its shipyards back in 1999 during my time with Sea Containers. Four very stylish monohull ferries (“SuperSeacats”) were built by Fincantieri for Sea Containers’ fast ferry network and my wife Gill and I enjoyed a very happy day at La Spezia for the christening of SuperSeacat III.
One hopes that this is a clever and successful move for Fincantieri although the global aspirations of a such a big beast as CSSC may also lie behind such a tie-up. And for me, it is another reminder of the desperate decline of the UK’s shipbuilding capability and how we have missed out in this country on the tremendous opportunities that the revival of the cruise sector has brought the world shipbuilding industry.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR