|In the second half of the XIXth century, Saint-Nazaire, small city counting less than 1,000 inhabitants, decided to upgrade its harbour facilities to become the starting point for the postal transatlantic service. |
John Scott, managing director of the Scottish shipyard in Greenock has been appointed in 1861 to settle a new shipyard. Together with his team, he organised the French staff training and supervised the construction of Impératrice Eugénie delivered in 1864.
After this first delivery, Saint-Nazaire yard history is paved with technological milestones, sometimes initiated by a harsh world context.
1914 – 1918: the yard at the service of war effort
As the yard is involved in the war effort, new operating modes are settled with the integration of Taylorism and diversification in production (cannon barrel, tanks …).
Interwar years: crisis and prosperity
During the interwar years, crisis and prosperous times followed one another. These years distinguished also by the quest for the Blues Riband award. This one, created in the XIXth century by shipping companies was offered to the fastest ships on the route between Great Britain and North America. This award was a real challenge for the shipbuilding industry which had to be able to offer not only luxurious ships but also highly technological ones, built in modern shipyards implementing innovative technologies.
1939 – 1945: Saint-Nazaire trapped in turmoil
During the Second World War, Saint-Nazaire has been mostly destroyed as well as 45% of the industrial facilities.
At the end of the war, the French Government decided to support financially the rebuilt of Saint-Nazaire industry. This was the occasion to modernize the yard which is appointed to build the French civilian and commercial fleet.
From the 50’s onwards: a huge program of reorganization and development is implemented
As soon as the early 50’s, the government stopped ordering new ships. At the same time, the world economic organization is coming up with the internationalization of the market. French shipyards appeared as not competitive compared to new emerging yards. A reorganization of the industry is essential, the main goals being: competitiveness, production in series for cargo ships and integration of new technologies to reduce the construction times.
From 1955, the activity level has raised once more with the building of cruise ships, cargo ships and crude oil tankers.
From 1956, building of MS France started. This outstanding ship, built on the same dock as Normandie, took 62 months to be built before being named in 1960.
the shipbuilding industry faced a new change. The orders for cruise and navy ships stopped, while very large crude oil tankers and LNG carriers appeared. At the same time, the world competition grew stronger especially facing Japan which is taking the leadership.
In Saint-Nazaire wide structural investments have been decided to create a “new yard”. Thanks to an improved space planning, it became possible to build several ships at the same time, marking the start of prefabrication process. The erection dock has been lengthened by the addition of a deep dock while automation appeared with the first digital control machines, plotting tables and the settlement of a scheduling department.
Saint-Nazaire yard is able to deliver to Shell Company the world biggest crude oil carrier (150,000 UMS) necessary to deal with the question of optimising shipping routes further to the closure of Suez Canal in the 70’s.
While the world economic context is still harsher, the yard is preparing its listing at the stock exchange (June 1974) and is initiating industrial partnerships, organized as per the Japanese example.
In October 1976, merger between Chantiers de l’Atlantique and Alsthom Atlantique was completed, giving birth to a wide industrial group.
In the 80’s: cruise ships are back
In 1980, two – 600 cabins cruise ships have been ordered by Holland America Line (Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam). The yard come back has been effective with the order of Sovereign of the Seas for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 1985. This contract featured a challenge with really short building schedule for that time (29 months). But, thanks to a perfectly mastered delivery, Saint-Nazaire demonstrated its ability to play a decisive part on the world chessboard.
During this period of time, Saint-Nazaire yard has signed also an order for 5 LNG carriers for Petronas, with delivery provided between July 1994 and July 1997.
2000’s: years of diversification
After having joined their forces with the Finnish group New Aker Finyards to create Aker Yards (2006), the group entered the South Korean STX Business group to settle STX Europe (2008).
Throughout this period of time, the French yard has remained offensive on its core market of complex ships (cruise ships and navy ships) while developing its commercial activity on the offshore markets. They are also working on technical solutions for specialized ships.