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Struggling French shipyard lands major luxury liner contract

The Nantes-Saint-Nazaire port.
The Nantes-Saint-Nazaire port. AFP / Camille Corbel

An ailing French shipyard has scored a contract worth more than a billion euros to build a luxury liner for an American cruise company.


The STX France shipyard at Saint-Nazaire on the French Atlantic coast will build the vessel for Miami-based Royal Caribbean International, to be delivered in mid-2016, with an option on a second vessel in mid-2018.

Company officials say the contract would represent more than 10 million hours of work over three years for the shipyard and its sub-contractors.

"It's a nice Christmas present, that's for sure, because it will allow us to have work and save jobs," a worker in the plant's painting department said after the news was announced.

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The shipyard had struggled to secure major new orders in recent years due to strong competition overseas.

"We are very happy with this order," STX France chief executive Laurent Castaing said, noting that competition with STX's branch in Finland for the contract had been "fierce".

""This changes the future for a part of this region. This order represents 10 million hours of work for the shipyard site itself and the surrounding area. It means that our workshops will be back at work starting in September, and by the end of the year, everyone will be back at work," he said.

Earlier this month, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici had promised to save the Atlantic shipyards by bringing in new contracts.

Following a slew of recent announcements of job cuts, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the contract was a sign that France's industrial sector was recovering.

"France is showing its capacity to win the battle for the recovery of its industry and exports," he said in a statement, praising "the excellence of French know-how in naval construction".

The STX France yard, partly owned by the French state, employs 2,100 people and provides work for another 4,000 sub-contractors.

The Saint-Nazaire shipyard built the transatlantic liners Normandie in 1935 and the Queen Mary 2 in 2002.

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