In the second half of the 19 century, encouraged by the State, Saint-Nazaire, then a small town with ledd than 1 000 in^habitants, modernized its port facilities to become the figure head of the transatlantic postal traffic.
At the same period, on the same site, the shareholders of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique entrusted the construction of a shipyard on the same site to John Scott, a Scottish engineer then manager of Greencock shipyard. He and his team were in charge of training the workforce of the Saint-Nazaire shipyard who in 1864 delivered the Impératrice Eugénie, its first cruise ship with a waterwheel, of an exceptional size for that era.
Impératrice Eugénie – 1864
Harmony of the Seas – 2016
The Saint Nazaire shipyard, first known under the successive names of Chantiers de l’Atlantique, born of the merger between Chantiers de la Loire and Chantiers de Penhoët in 1955, then Aker Yards in 2006, before becoming STX Europe in 2008, eventually reclaimed its birth name of “Chantiers de l’Atlantique” in 2018. The company’s history is marked by several technological leaps, at times driven by the challenging worldwide scope of its market.
With more than 150 years of industrial history, the company provides the extended circle of players in the sea world with its expertise in large-project management, from design to delivery, including ship maintenance. In parallel to the shipbuilding activity, the strategic turn toward the new markets of offshore, renewable marine energies and oil & gas, helps re-create value and recover the company’s growth dynamics, beyond the sector of passenger ships. All of this shall contribute to sustaining jobs, both in its historic cradle in Saint-Nazaire and in new locations (Brest, Toulon, La Réunion, Martinique).
1914 – 1918 The shipyard plays its part in the war effort
The shipyard, involved in the war effort put in place new operating methods which incorporated Taylorism and diversification of production (canon tubes, war tank construction, locomotive assembly…)
1939 – 1945: Saint-Nazaire in the storm
During the second world war, intense air strikes by the Allied forces against the German submarine base in Saint-Nazaire destroyed 45% of the industrial infrastructures. At the end of the war, the French State financed a substantial part of the industrial reconstruction effort. This gave a new impulse leading to the modernization of the shipyard which had to fulfill orders placed by the public authorities for the reconstruction of civil and merchant fleets.
From the 50’s onward: a large 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 internationalization of the market. French shipyards 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 construction times. 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.
At the beginning of 60’s
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, large 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 the pre-fabrication process. The mounting dock has been lengthened by addition of another dock, deepest than the previous one while automation appeared with the 1st digit controlled machines, plotting tables and the settlement of a scheduling department.
Lancement du paquebot France en 1960
Between 1976 and 1979
Saint-Nazaire yard delivered to Shell Company the world largest crude oil carriers (150 000UMS) necessary to deal with the question of optimizing shipping routes further to the closure of the 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 initiating industrial partnerships, organized as per the Japanese pattern. 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 order by Holland America Line (Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam). The yard coming 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 tight 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 chess board.
During this period of time, Saint-Nazaire yard has signed also an order for 5 LNG carriers for Petronas, with delivery scheduled between July 1994 and July 1997.
2000’s: Years of diversification
After having joined their forces with the Finnish group New Aker Finnyards to create Aker Yards (2006) the group entered the South Korean STX Business Group to settled STX Europe in 2008. Throughout this period of time, the French yard has remained offensive on its core markets.
At the same time, the world economic crisis had a strong impact on the yard further the cancellation of several orders. With a world market level divided by 2, the main issue was how to enhance the yard productivity.
Since 2012: A successful diversification policy and revival
Since the launching of its two last company plans (Horizon 2015 in 2010 and Smart Yard 2020 in 2015) the yard situation came back to be flourishing on all its markets. It gained its reputation on its offshore markets and stands at the forefront with its Service Business Unit. Its ship markets has reached historical levels with deliveries scheduled up to 2026 with the registering of the last LOI signed with MSC Cruises for the World Class ship in May 2017.