Genoa - TUI Cruises wants to double the size of its fleet, bringing it to eight units. TUI AG C.E.O. Friedrich Joussen revealed as much at his presentation of the financial plan for the January-March quarter of 2014. Joussen said that the group intends to grow both in the hotel and the cruise sectors. His goal is to increase revenue over the course of two years from €762 million to a billion euros by September 2015. Meanwhile, TUI is in the throes of restructuring, and recorded losses in the last quarter, although not as badly as expected, while it is counting on reversing the trend by September 2014 and growing at a rate of 2-4%. “I am talking about growth for the first time today,” said Joussen. An important part of that growth will be entrusted to the cruise ship sector, which is an important part of the group. TUI directly manages the brands Hapag Lloyd Kreuzfahten (luxury cruises, operating four ships) and TUI Cruises (in joint venture with Royal Caribbean-RCCL, the U.S. giant in the sector), and through its subsidiary Thomson Holidays, the British company Thomson.
The development project is focused on TUI Cruises. Currently the company has two ships, Mein Schiff 1 and Mein Schiff 2. Together with RCCL, two more ships have already been ordered, Mein Schiff 3 and Mein Schiff 4, and they are under construction at Finland’s Turku shipyard, which is owned by the STX group. The third ship is close to delivery, which has been announced for this month, while the fourth ship’s keel has just been laid down, with delivery in a year. During the press conference in which he presented the quarterly financial plan, Joussen said that new orders will not stop here and that the fleet will eventually have between six and eight units. Furthermore, he hinted that the company plans to expand into the UK market. But he didn’t provide any details about future orders, and prudently said only that “each ship is an enormous investment and [the construction of] each ship will be planned with the utmost care.” The Turku shipyards, where the fleet’s next two ships are being built, are now owned by STX Europe, a subsidiary of the South Korean STX Group, which is also now under restructuring. Its entire European division could be sold. So at the moment, STX Europe itself is trying to sell the Turku shipyards.
A joint venture between the Finnish State and Germany’s Meyer Werft shipyards is interested in acquiring them. If the sale goes through, TUI’s German ships would continue to be built in Finland, only with the shipyards under German ownership. The Finnish-German joint venture was announced by the Finnish government itself: “Both parties,” said Minister for Economic Affairs Jan Vapaavuori, “ fully intend to move forward with the negotiations, but they are only in initial stages.” In 2012, Vapaavuori was involved in a fierce debate when the government in Helsinki refused to give the guarantees that were needed for the construction of another cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s third Oasis-class ship.