Top 10 Biggest Shipbuilding Companies in Europe

Top 10 Biggest Shipbuilding Companies in Europe
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The shipbuilding industry in Europe has a long and rich history, with some companies tracing their origins back over 100 years. Shipbuilding remains an important economic sector, providing jobs and driving innovation.

This article provides an overview and comparison of the Top 10 Biggest Shipbuilding Companies in Europe based on annual revenue. For each company, we explore their key facts, statistics, shipyards, types of ships built, clients, and outlook. We also include a comparison table summarizing key figures across the companies.

Overview of Top 10 Biggest Shipbuilding Companies in Europe

Europe is a global leader in shipbuilding, especially in the construction of cruise ships, ferries, mega-yachts, dredgers, and other specialized vessels. Some of the largest shipyards are located in countries like Germany, Italy, Norway, Croatia, Romania, Poland, and France (Damen Shipyard).

According to statistics from the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), European shipyards accounted for 41.6% of global shipbuilding in 2021 measured by gross tonnage. South Korea leads the market with 47.2%.

The major European shipbuilders benefit from advanced technology, highly skilled workforces, and strong reputations for quality engineering and craftsmanship built up over many decades. They are innovative in designing complex vessels from cruise ships and ferries to specialized offshore vessels.

Many focus on niche, high-value vessels, though some also build tankers, container ships, and dry bulk carriers. The cruise ship and ferry segments make up a large part of the orderbooks at yards like Fincantieri, Chantiers de l’Atlantique, Meyer Werft, and Meyer Turku.

Let’s delve deeper into the top 10 shipbuilding companies in Europe by annual revenue.

1. Fincantieri – Italy

Top 10 Biggest Shipbuilding Companies in Europe

Fincantieri is currently the largest shipbuilder in Europe and one of the top 10 globally. The company is headquartered in Trieste, Italy and publicly listed on the Milan stock exchange.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Founded: 1959
  • Annual revenue: €5.8 billion
  • Employees: Nearly 20,000
  • Shipyards: 8 in Italy and 20 worldwide
  • Vessels delivered annually: Approx. 40

Fincantieri operates eight major shipyards in Italy along with three special shipyards focused on megayachts and refitting. Internationally, it has a presence in Europe, the USA, and Asia through 10 shipyards for cruise ships and naval vessels as well as various partnerships and shareholdings.

The company is a leader in the construction of cruise ships, passenger ferries, naval vessels, offshore vessels, and other complex specialty ships. Its customers include the biggest cruise lines like Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, and Virgin Voyages.

Over 90 cruise ships in service were built by Fincantieri representing over 55% of the global capacity. The company also partners with France’s Naval Group on various naval projects and supplies surface vessels like frigates, destroyers, patrol boats, and aircraft carriers to the Italian Navy and other foreign navies.

Outlook: Fincantieri has an order backlog worth €32.5 billion as of Q3 2022 covering 101 vessels. It is due to deliver two new cruise ships in early 2023 – the MSC Euribia and Norwegian Prima. The company aims to strengthen its leadership in the cruise sector and sees continued naval growth. There is also potential in offshore wind with the new Fincantieri FORUS subsidiary.

Read Also: Top 5 Shipbuilding Companies in the Philippines

2. Naval Group – France

Top 10 Biggest Shipbuilding Companies in Europe

Naval Group is a major global defense contractor and a European leader in naval shipbuilding and naval systems integration headquartered in Paris.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Founded: 1631 (as a naval dockyard)
  • Annual revenue: €3.5 billion
  • Employees: 15,000+
  • Shipyards: 11 in France and 1 in India
  • Vessels delivered annually: 3-4

With origins dating to French Cardinal Richelieu’s naval expansion plans in the 17th century, Naval Group (formerly known as DCNS) has centuries of expertise in submarine construction, warship design, naval engineering and systems integration.

Its largest construction site is in Saint-Nazaire accounting for 80% of activity. Other French shipyards are located in Brest, Cherbourg, Lorient, and Toulon focusing on submarine construction as well as surface ship building and maintenance. Internationally, Naval Group owns Indian corporation Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders.

Naval Group builds complex surface combatants like frigates, destroyers, and aircraft carriers as well as all categories of modern submarine including ballistic missile subs. Customers include the French Navy, Indian Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Malaysian Navy, Royal Moroccan Navy, and others.

The company also works in maritime renewable energy, cyber security, data analysis, and other areas leveraging its R&D capabilities nurtured from defense contracts. For example, Naval Group helped CMA CGM develop liquefied natural gas fueled container ships and has patents in areas like fuel cells and tidal power turbines.

Outlook: Naval Group aims to establish itself as a “digital navy” leader and European naval systems champion via partnerships, innovation, and exports. It is immersed in several major defense programs for the French Navy over the next 20 years encompassing frigates, aircraft carriers, nuclear attack subs, and ballistic missile subs representing over €50 billion in future revenue.

3. Meyer Werft – Germany

Top 10 Biggest Shipbuilding Companies in Europe

Meyer Werft is one of the leading cruise ship and ferry builders in the world. The company is headquartered in Papenburg, Germany and family owned for over 220 years.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Founded: 1795
  • Annual revenue: €2.5 billion
  • Employees: 3600
  • Shipyards: Papenburg (Germany), Turku (Finland), and Rostock (Germany)
  • Vessels delivered annually: 2

Meyer Werft operates three strategically located shipyards – its main facility in Papenburg plus the Meyer Turku yard in Finland acquired in 2014 and the Neptun Werft in Rostock purchased in 2016.

The company is renowned for constructing some of the largest, most innovative cruise ships for major operators like Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Disney Cruise Line. Over 700 ships have been built by Meyer Werft in its long history.

Meyer also develops state-of-the-art passenger ferries like the first LNG battery hybrid completed for BC Ferries (Canada). It built Germany’s largest research vessel, the Sonne, for scientific expeditions. Additionally, the Papenburg yard handles complex refits, repairs, and conversions across vessel types.

Outlook: Meyer Werft has faced order cancellations and delays during the cruise industry shutdown minimizing short-term revenue. However, its orderbook still encompasses 9 cruise ships over the next 6 years for Carnival, Royal Caribbean International, and others as voyages restart.

Read Also: Top 10 Largest Shipbuilding Companies in the World

4. FSG Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft – Germany

Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) specializes in the design and construction of RoRo ships (roll on/roll off), ferries, and other commercial vessels. It is based in Flensburg, Germany along the Danish border.

Key Facts & Figures:

  • Founded: 1872
  • Annual revenue: €300+ million
  • Employees: Over 650
  • Shipyards: Flensburg, Germany
  • Vessels delivered annually: approx. 2

FSG has roots dating to 1872 though the modern company was formed via a management buyout in 2009 after its prior parent went bankrupt during the financial crisis. It operates just a single large shipyard in Flensburg but owns shares in other yards internationally.

FSG focuses exclusively on merchant shipbuilding – no naval contracts. Its core products are RoRo freight ferries, passenger ferries, offshore support vessels like construction ships, and special project cargo carriers outfitted with heavy lift cranes.

Norwegian firms dominate FSG’s orderbook such as ferry operators Color Line and Fjord Line. However, it has constructed vessels for Grimaldi Lines (Italy) and various offshore owners like DEME which recently ordered an innovative ‘Green Jupiter’ zero emissions construction vessel.

Outlook: FSG strategy involves leveraging its specialized RoRo/ferry expertise to maintain strong regional position while increasing international sales. It aims to be closely integrated into maritime cluster networks like Maritime Forum Flensburg that connect shipping firms, equipment suppliers, research institutes and other stakeholders.

5. Vard Group – Norway

Top 10 Biggest Shipbuilding Companies in Europe

Vard Group is a major global designer and builder of specialized vessels including offshore and fishing vessels, ferries, expedition cruise ships, and naval support ships. It employs over 8,000 people across nine strategically located shipyards in Europe, Asia and South America.

The company is majority owned by Italian financial group FINCANTIERI S.p.A. Specific yards have additional key partners like French defense firm Naval Group for the Vard Tulcea yard in Romania.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Founded: 1865
  • Employees: Over 8,000
  • Annual revenue: +$1 billion
  • Shipyards: 9 yards across Norway, Romania, Vietnam, Brazil

Vard was born out of a long lineage of over 150 predecessor entities focused on Norway’s coast including industry icon BMV. Today, its heritage and specialized expertise spans over 6,500 vessel deliveries including pioneering designs in fishing, offshore, expedition ships and naval support.

Core strengths include custom ship design to match unique operational profiles from coastal fishing trawlers to subsea construction ships. Vard leverages group-wide joined forces collaborating between the Scandinavia, France, Romania and Vietnam design centers.

Advanced specialized vessels for scientific research, coastal defense and ocean fishing showcase Vard’s innovation with hybrid power systems, battery packs and high-efficiency vessel configurations.

Outlook: Vard’s diversified yard network, design strengths and flexible production capacity keep its future outlook robust even amid industry turbulence like COVID-19. Fincantieri group backing also aids its financial foundation.

Vard’s orderbook includes electric and LNG battery powered ferries, wind turbine installation vessels, a luxury expedition cruise vessel for Vantage Travel, offshore maintenance ships and coastal fishing boats.

6. Chantiers de l’Atlantique – France

Chantiers de l’Atlantique is renowned for constructing the largest, most advanced cruise ships and naval vessels featuring cutting-edge green technologies. Its shipyard in Saint-Nazaire on France’s Atlantic coastline represents a center for marine engineering excellence since 1861.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Founded: 1861
  • Employees: Around 3,000
  • Facilities: Saint-Nazaire, France
  • Vessels delivered annually: 1-2

The shipbuilder was born as Chantiers de Penhoët and has evolved by acquiring other French yards like Dubigeon and Normandie throughout the 20th century. Today, the core focus remains at its sprawling Saint-Nazaire construction site – one of Europe’s biggest covered dry docks.

While best known for building passenger ships like the Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise vessel, Chantiers de l’Atlantique also constructs naval ships, yachts, and specialized vessels. Around 25 percent of orders are defense-related including FREMM multi-mission frigates for the French and Italian navies.

Its parent company is Italian shipbuilding group Fincantieri, which holds a controlling 50% stake. The remaining equity is held by the French government after purchasing shares previously owned by South Korea’s STX.

Outlook: Chantiers de l’Atlantique has opted to focus on high value-added cruise ships and innovative naval vessels rather than compete in more cost-focused segments like bulk carriers.

Its current orderbook encompasses 5 ships worth over $4.8 billion – including 2 LNG-powered luxury cruise ships for MSC Cruises as well as the first LNG cruise ship for Disney. There is also a contract for 4 naval defense ships. These capitalize on its expertise in specialized marine engineering and green technology across civilian and military sectors.

7. Damen Shipyards Group – Netherlands

Top 10 Biggest Shipbuilding Companies in Europe

Damen Shipyards Group operates 36 shipbuilding and repair yards across Europe, Asia, Africa, Americas and Australia – making it one of the most geographically diverse maritime firms. While headquartered in the Netherlands, it has a legacy spanning over 90 years and 6,500 vessel deliveries worldwide.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Founded: 1927
  • Employees: 13,000+
  • Annual revenue: $1.9 billion
  • Shipyards: 36 yards globally

Damen’s international scale and range of vessel construction from workboats to naval frigates to offshore wind installation ships gives it a flexible, resilient business model. It has so far weathered industry storms like steel price spikes in 2022 without major impacts.

Rather than just constructing ships on speculation, Damen is known for its innovative standardized designs and modular construction methods that allow rapid builds leveraging its international yard network. This allows customization for clients with shorter lead times.

Recent years saw Damen expanding in the growing offshore renewables segment via partnerships with firms like Van Oord, wind turbine makers, and battery suppliers. It also continues defense sector work.

Outlook: Damen aims to maintain its diverse portfolio across both commercial and naval vessels while progressively decarbonizing operations. It is targeting improved energy efficiency for builds and retrofits along with wider deployment of zero emissions technologies like hydrogen fuel cell innovation.

Orderbooks indicate brisk business in offshore wind support ships, harbor protection vessels, dredgers, government patrol boat programs and other traditional Damen vessels. Continued geographic expansion may occur in areas like Southeast Asia and Canada.

8. Uljanik Shipyard – Croatia

Uljanik Shipyard operates two large shipbuilding facilities in Pula and Rijeka along Croatia’s Adriatic coastline. Collectively, its docks provide almost 6 kilometers of berthing space and extensive production shops – resulting in maximum vessels capacities exceeding 500,000 DWT.

Founded in 1856, Uljanik has constructed over 850 ships encompassing a wide array of commercial and military vessels like crude oil tankers, container ships, dredgers, passenger-cargo ferries and mine hunters. It also performs repairs and conversions across all major types.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Founded: 1856
  • Employees: Around 4,500
  • Facilities: Pula & Rijeka shipyards
  • Vessels delivered annually: 4-5

Uljanik ownership has passed between various government and private equity entities over the decades. Most recently in 2019, it entered bankruptcy restructuring and was acquired by state dockyard DIV Group.

Financial turbulence in the late 2010s related partly to thin margins, competitive pressures and some mismanagement issues. However, underlying fundamentals remain anchored by strong physical infrastructure.

The Pula facility focuses primarily on naval vessels – particularly smaller corvettes, mine warfare ships and patrol boats. Rijeka handles mainly commercial newbuilds and repairs/conversions. Major past clients include names like Maersk, Kirby Offshore, Sea Star Line, Bourbon Offshore and the Croatian Navy.

Outlook: Uljanik’s outlook under revived ownership involves stabilizing operations, pursuing select vessel niches, and leveraging its strategic Adriatic coast position close to main shipping routes. Efficient new management aims to gradually uplift financial performance.

Near-term naval contracts are bolstering orderbooks alongside some ferry deals and potential for other mid-size commercial vessels. There is also possible upside working in maritime technical services like designing ship components. Yard infrastructure investments may occur depending on securing large-scale commercial builds.

9. Sembcorp Marine – Singapore (Europe Shipyards)

While based in Singapore, Sembcorp Marine also operates two major shipyards in Europe – Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz (EJA) in Brazil and Estaleiro Espadon in Brazil which provide it with significant Brazilian and European market access.

Its two yards in Brazil are among the largest in South America with deepwater access and quays of around 2 kilometers able to handle offshore rigs, FPSOs, OSVs, and other vessels to 465,000 DWT sizes.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Founded: 1963 (Singapore)
  • Employees: Around 9,000
  • Shipyards: 6 in Asia, 2 in Brazil (EJA & Espadon)
  • Facilities: Over 1.85 million sq meters

While traditionally focused on offshore oil and gas builds, Sembcorp Marine is working to diversify its business profile by entering renewables like offshore wind substations and turbine jackets. It also has active naval shipbuilding projects.

The gravity-based structure for the first French offshore wind farms was constructed at Sembcorp’s Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz yard in Brazil during 2021-2022 – highlighting its specialized engineering for offshore facilities.

Outlook: Financial stability is a concern for Sembcorp as the entire offshore marine industry navigates out of a recent brutal downturn. However, its global footprint and engineering strengths should support orderbook recovery – especially if Brazil expands domestic shipbuilding policies and offshore sectors rebound.

10. Crist Shipyard – Poland

Crist operates three shipyards on Poland’s Baltic coast focused on small and mid-size commercial vessels, dredging equipment, navy ships and offshore structures. It traces roots back to a ship repair yard founded in Szczecin during 1843.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • Founded: 1843
  • Employees: +1,000
  • Shipyards: Szczecin, Gdynia, Gdansk
  • Vessels delivered annually: 10+

After various ownership changes, the modern Crist company was established in 2007 by merging three Polish shipyards into a more streamlined operating entity. It constructs a wide array of vessels from fishing boats and tugboats to equipment like cutter suction dredgers and hopper barges.

The Polish government is a key client accounting for around half of orders – especially for naval vessels like minesweepers, patrol boats and auxiliary ships. Recent deliveries include 3 KORMORAN II class MCMVs (mine countermeasures vessels) for the Polish Navy.

Beyond domestic military demand, Crist also exports niche commercial vessels to European clients like port authorities and dredging contractors. Its smaller regional yards provide agility to handle custom one-off type orders.

Outlook: Near term stability is supported by contracts for 4 naval vessels, modest government investment and demand for dredgers/port equipment as Poland’s maritime economy grows. However, rising costs pose margin pressure while still recovering from COVID. Competitiveness investments may be needed longer-term.

Comparison of Major European Shipbuilders

Here is a comparison table summarizing key figures and areas of focus across the top 10 biggest shipbuilding companies in Europe:

CompanyCountryEmployeesAnnual RevenueShipyards/FacilitiesMain Vessel Focus
FincantieriItaly20,000€5.8 billion8 in Italy + 10 internationalCruise ships, ferries, specialized vessels
Naval GroupFrance15,000+€3.5 billion12 shipyards in France & IndiaSubmarines, surface combatants, naval systems integration
Meyer WerftGermany3,600€2.5 billion3 yards in Germany & FinlandCruise ships, passenger ferries
FSGGermany650+€300+ millionFlensburg, GermanyRoRo ships, ferries, offshore support
Vard GroupNorway8,000+$1+ billion9 yards across Europe/AsiaOffshore OSVs, fishing boats, expedition ships
Chantiers l’AtlantiqueFrance3,000$2+ billionSaint-Nazaire, FranceCruise ships, naval vessels, specialized ships
Damen ShipyardsNetherlands13,000+$1.9 billion36 yards globallyHarbor vessels, offshore ships, dredgers, fast craft, naval
UljanikCroatia4,500$250+ millionPula and RijekaTankers, container ships, ferries, naval corvettes
Sembcorp MarineSingapore (EU yards)9,000+$1.5 billionJurong & Espadon, BrazilOffshore O&G, offshore wind substations, navy auxiliaries
CristPoland1000+$100+ millionGdansk, Gdynia, SzczecinFishing boats, port equipment, navy vessels

Future Outlook for European Shipbuilders

The broader shipbuilding industry faces uncertainty with overcapacity, raw material cost inflation, labor shortages in key trades, and depressed volumes across most commercial vessel segments. However, defense spending increases in Europe provide some counterbalance along with brighter spots like cruise ships and offshore wind infrastructure.

Major European shipbuilders must navigate these headwinds by:

  • Specializing in higher value vessels like cruise ships with integrated green technologies
  • Leveraging defense sector naval contracts and coast guard/patrol boat programs
  • Expanding into emerging areas like offshore renewable energy support ships
  • Careful cost control and production optimization to withstand margin pressure
  • Strategic diversification for more resilience against cyclical offshore/shipping downturns

In general, the long-term outlook remains stronger for specialist makers of complex ships like Fincantieri, Meyer Werft, and Chantiers de l’Atlantique rather than those focused on commercial bulk carriers facing intense Asian competition.

Europe’s industry leaders will continue driving innovation in reducing maritime emissions via alternative fuels, optimizing energy efficiency, integrating renewables like rotor sails and advancing autonomous navigation.

Key Takeaways and Conclusions

  • With centuries of collective expertise, European shipbuilders maintain leadership in constructing state-of-the-art vessels from cruise ships to next-gen submarines.
  • Consolidation has narrowed Europe’s shipbuilding industry down to a handful of large players plus various mid-size specialists in market niches.
  • Fierce competition from Asian yards will persist applying cost pressure across bulk carrier and tanker segments. High value specialty vessels are Europe’s strong suit.
  • Offshore wind infrastructure and growing defense spending provide buffers amid a weak near-term commercial shipping backdrop.
  • Increasing deployment of alternative fuel systems and autonomous technologies will disrupt vessel designs – playing into European strengths in innovation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is the biggest shipbuilder in Europe?
The largest shipbuilding company in Europe by annual revenue is Fincantieri based in Italy. It delivers around 40 ships per year across its network of 8 Italian shipyards and 10 international facilities.

What country builds the most ships in Europe?
Italy constructs the most ships by total gross tonnage followed closely by Germany and then other leaders like Norway, France, Croatia and the Netherlands. Over 40% of ships launched globally were built in European yards.

What are the most famous shipyards in Europe?
Some of the most renowned shipyards in Europe include:

  • Chantiers de l’Atlantique (France) – Known for world’s largest cruise ships
  • Meyer Werft (Germany) – Leading cruise ship builder
  • Fincantieri (Italy) – Global leader across segments
  • Damen Schelde (Netherlands) – Famous for naval vessels
  • Navantia (Spain) – Constructs renowned aircraft carriers

What countries have the most advanced shipbuilding?
South Korea, Japan and China are viewed as the most technologically advanced in commercial shipbuilding today. Europe remains a leader in complex specialty vessels like cruise ships, megayachts, dredgers and offshore ships. Military naval construction in Europe also showcases advanced designs.

Who are the major clients of European shipbuilders?

  • Cruise lines – Carnival, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises
  • Shipping firms – Maersk, CMA CGM, Grimaldi Lines
  • Ferry operators – Color Line, Stena Line, DFDS
  • Oil/Offshore – Transocean, Saipem, Subsea7
  • Defense/Navy – French Navy, Royal Navy, Italian Navy

What is the future outlook for shipbuilding in Europe?
The long-term outlook for European shipbuilding remains strong in higher value segments like cruise ships, ferries, and complex offshore vessels. However, commercial sectors like tankers and bulk carriers face overcapacity and stiff Asian competition.

Defense spending and emerging areas like offshore wind should buoy future demand. Consolidation and optimization of production capacities will help efficiency.

European yards are well placed to lead innovation in green technologies like alternative fuels, batteries and hydrogen solutions. They also leverage expertise in advanced materials, automation and complex system integration.

Which European shipbuilders focus the most on sustainability?
Firms with the strongest sustainability initiatives include:

  • Meyer Werft – Pioneering use of LNG, shore power connections, resource efficiency focus
  • Chantiers de l’Atlantique – Cutting-edge green ships with wind/solar power
  • Fincantieri – Investing in LNG ships, electricity microgrids, fuel cells
  • Damen – Broad initiatives from hybrid tugs to renewable energy R&D
  • Vard – Designs using wave/solar renewable power inputs

What is the difference between Northern and Southern European shipbuilders?
Broadly, Northern European shipbuilders like Germany and Norway leverage precision engineering and technical innovation. Southern yards in Italy, France, Croatia and Spain rely more on skilled artisanal labor, with slightly different vessel specialty profiles on average.

Which European shipbuilder is best for cruise ships?
The top cruise ship builders in Europe are companies like:

  • Meyer Werft (Germany)
  • Fincantieri (Italy)
  • Chantiers de l’Atlantique (France)
  • Meyer Turku (Finland)

These 4 yards account for over 90% of global cruise ship construction output.

Can European shipbuilders compete with Asia?
Competition from Asian shipbuilders, especially South Korean mega-yards remains intense across bulk carrier segments. However, European builders have some buffers including defense sector demand and specialization in complex vessel types.

Industry consolidation also improves economies of scale. And proximity to key European owners aids after-sales service advantages.

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