With an order book stretching into 2024, Finnish shipyard Meyer Turku is investing €200 million in infrastructure improvements, new technologies, an expanded design team, and a sustained staffing ramp up for at least the next five years, a company spokesman said Wednesday.
A new 120-meter crane looms over the shipbuilder’s drydock, where crews are assembling TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 2 ahead of a 2019 delivery.
When the big blue crane goes online this summer, it will be able to lift 1,200 tons — twice that of the yard’s current lifter.
Pieces of Costa’s Smeralda sit in open-sided warehouses within earshot of construction for new steel cutting lines. Half of a 500-meter hall is ripped apart while the new technology is installed.
Crews in blue coveralls craft steel sheets for Smeralda’s superstructure in the other side of the hall. When the plasma-cutting robots are ready the crews will move over and this side will be ripped up. There’s a joke around the yard that shipbuilding has gotten much easier: Robots do all the work while people are simply there to make them comfortable.
That’s far from true, of course. There’s plenty of people work to be done. There were some grumbles when the machines took over obvious jobs — ten men sandblasting is now two pushing buttons to start and stop their mechanical colleagues — but most humans are being retrained for other, more engaging work. Furthermore, Meyer Turku is on a hiring tear, looking to grow their in-house staff of around 1,900 to 4,000, said Tapani Mylly, the yard’s communications manager. It’s not an easy task as the working language at Meyer Turku is Finnish, one of the world’s less common tongues.
German shipbuilder Meyer Werft bought the facility from struggling Korean-owner STX Finland in 2014, acquiring 100 percent ownership a year later. With seven generations of shipbuilding know how the Meyer family has turned Turku’s fortune’s around considerably. “The previous owner was not interested in making investments,” Mylly said. “A family-owned company is able to make decisions very fast — around the breakfast table. … When decisions need to be made there is no need to contact Korea.”
The yard is also adding steel treatment facilities, more panel lines and storage areas, further IT and automation, and enhanced in-house design capabilities to reduce reliance on subcontractors. That said, about 800 subcontractor companies work on each ship — so many that the city of Turku is considering zoning an industrial park outside the shipyard for them.
If it’s built, Meyer Turku CEO Jan Meyer would see his subcontractors each day when bicycling into work from the city centre.