Source: CLIA Europe (2017). Contribution of Cruise Tourism to the Economies of Europe. Brussels: CLIA
Although conventional merchant shipbuilding has been in decline in Europe since the late 1970s in the face of lower-cost competition from the Far East, the European industry has been more successful in retaining market share in a number of specialist sectors. The most important is cruise ship construction, in which the European industry has been the world leader for nearly 50 years.
The yards in Italy, Germany, France, and Finland are the most important suppliers to the market and account for most ships due for delivery. Germany and Italy are the current leaders with 70% of the order book between them. Europe offers an abundance of specialist skills and sophisticated technology in navigation and outfitting, which support European cruise ship construction and assist the yards in maintaining a competitive edge. The outstanding reputation of European yards has meant that US cruise lines have continued to order ships in Europe. Thus most of the oceanic cruise ships constructed in the second half of the 2010s were built in European yards.
Although other non-European yards have the capacity and technology to build cruise ships, they may not have project management capability, aptitude, or the desired balance of labor and skills required to deliver a cost-effective result within a required budget in the contracted delivery time. However, Far Eastern yards have been studying the market diligently, and prospective orders have been reported for yards in China. Japan had orders for few ships, but its market participation has been sporadic, previous ships having been delivered in 1998 and 2004. The majority of cruise ships serving the European market are dry-docked in Europe, together with a number of North American ships summering in the region. European yards also undertake major conversions such as replacing main engines and insertion of a mid-body to lengthen the ship.