Ulstein Group has two shipbuilding business models: the design and physical construction of vessels at their own yard in Norway and designing and supervising the construction process for other shipyards.
“In that second business case, the shipbuilder is another yard, but we design the vessel. In some cases, we do more engineering. We can also integrate critical equipment – for example, the engines, propellers, the electrical system. We do the integration of those systems, we purchase them and help the owner select them because, in some cases, the yard may not be as experienced with those systems. Then we make sure that the design of the vessel and those systems are matching well together,” said Deputy Managing Director of Ulstein International AS, Jose Jorge Garcia Agis.
“In some cases, we do it because it’s more competitive economically or financially because the yards can have a better deal. In other cases, we do it because it’s more convenient geographically for the customer or because the customer has to build the vessel after leaving the country – like in the U.S., for example, or in Brazil, or they have limitations with regards to the building country,” he explained.
Agis said that the income ratio between the two business models has varied a lot over the last years, but most of the time it’s been 75 percent for all the shipbuilding activities and 25 percent for the design side for other shipyards.
“But we have had up to 50-50 as well,” he noted.
Ulstein has built more than 100 vessels in this way since 2004. Most recently, it has been designing cruise ships for SunStone Ships, the company that charters out vessels to cruise lines like Aurora Expeditions and Albatros Expeditions. The ships are built at the China Merchants Heavy Industry shipyard in China.
Ulstein has only built two cruise ships itself so far: sister ships the National Geographic Endurance and Resolution for Lindblad Expeditions.
“Cruise ships are one of the shipyard’s priority segments … We have a covered dock, the capabilities of which give us strength for building cruise vessels because we can do all the painting and other jobs inside. And we aren’t weather-dependent,” said Agis.
“That is one of the reasons why we are targeting the cruise industry. But we are only looking at medium- to small-size vessels – under 150 meters in length. They are typically under 200 passengers,” he added.
Ulstein sometimes contracts some of the construction jobs out.
“Norwegian shipyards don’t do steelwork in Norway because it’s very expensive. We subcontract all the steelwork in Poland, Turkey or Romania. Ulstein has a long collaboration with Crist, a shipyard in Poland where we have built the hull of both the National Geographic Endurance and National Geographic Resolution. That’s Ulstein’s subcontractor, and we have people in Poland that follow up in construction,” he explained.
Agis said that Ulstein is currently in the process of several discussions for building cruise ships.