MSC Cruises takes delivery of new vessel.
MSC Cruises took delivery today of its newest vessel, the 1,275-cabin MSC Magnifica, after French port workers agreed to lift their blockade of the port of Saint Nazaire to allow the ship to begin its maiden cruise.
The vessel"s departure, which had been in suspense this morning, has opened the way to finalisation of a new order from the cruise company for STX Europe"s Saint Nazaire yard.
The French presidency announced on Wednesday evening that agreement had been reached on the new order but it later emerged that MSC Cruises had not signed the letter of intent for the order, apparently because of the threat posed by port workers" industrial action to the delivery of MSC Magnifica.
It appeared that there could be other matters still to be settled before the letter of intent can be signed, although Mediterranean Shipping Company chairman Gianluigi Aponte, said today that it was ?90%? sure that the order would go through.
It is understood that MSC Cruises is planning to order a 1,600-cabin vessel, comparable to the MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida delivered to it by the Saint Nazaire yard in December 2008 and July 2009, rather than the two 1,275-cabin vessels it had originally envisaged.
The French presidency said that the order would provide 5m hours of work at the Saint Nazaire yard, which faces large-scale lay-offs over the next three months because of a lack of new orders.
It said that the French state had been ?totally mobilised? to help the yard obtain the order, notably through export credit insurance provided in its name by French export credit insurer Coface.
Today, however, the Saint Nazaire yard confirmed that the letter of intent for the new vessel had not yet been signed.
?We will communicate when the time comes,? a yard spokeswoman said.
A union representative welcomed news of the planned order guardedly, moreover, saying: ?It is necessarily very good news but insufficient.
?The orderbook will need to be added to in the months to come. It is an obligation or else we will have another very delicate period to get through from mid-2011.?
The MSC Magnifica, which, unusually, is making a week-long inaugural cruise starting and finishing in Saint Nazaire, is due in Southampton tomorrow. The official naming ceremony will take place in Hamburg on March 6.
Uncertainty about the vessel"s departure from Saint Nazaire today arose out of industrial action by port workers at Saint Nazaire who were protesting over the refusal of the port of Nantes-Saint Nazaire to meet their demand for compensation for the loss of their public service status under the national port reform, currently in progress.
MSC Magnifica was one of a number of vessels prevented from leaving the port by the port workers" strike.