Neopolia Marine is reshaping industrial subcontracting in French shipbuilding and Neopolia, the parent network comprising five such clusters, is spreading the good news.
In just two years, Neopolia Marine, has made its mark as a key player in the French shipbuilding industry. Neopolia Marine is not a company, but a ‘business cluster’, an innovative collaborative structure of the Neopolia network. The concept was first put forward in 1999 when subcontractors working for the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire felt they needed to broaden their horizons. The aim at the time was to seek new business to minimise workload ups and downs due to the cyclical nature of shipbuilding, including the downturn they were then experiencing.
The concept has since been expanded to other industrial sectors and to the entire Pays de la Loire region centred on Saint-Nazaire and Nantes on the Loire estuary on France’s Atlantic coast. In addition to playing a large role in the maritime sector, with contractors like STX France, DCNS and Bénéteau, the region is a key player in the country’s aerospace and transport sectors thanks to companies like Airbus, Total and Engie (formerly GDF Suez). The regional industrial fabric also boasts a strong network of specialist service providers, design bureaux and research centres as well as engineering schools, universities and other tertiary education institutions.
(© NEOPOLIA - BERNARD BIGER)
230 companies, five clusters
This rich industrial fabric proved a remarkable springboard for Neopolia. Today, the network brings together 230 companies forming five business clusters: Aerospace, Rail, MRE (or marine renewable energy), Marine, and Oil & Gas.
Neopolia Marine comprises 56 companies active in the maritime and shipbuilding sectors that now share resources and know-how. The cluster’s collaborative approach to design and production focuses on innovation and winning new business. “The idea was to work together so we could take on complex projects jointly. In 2012 we joined STX France in responding to a call for tenders issued by Viking River Cruises to build river cruise vessels in Saint-Nazaire. Although we failed to win the contract, it encouraged us to pursue the concept. Later, when CroisiEurope came to us, we were in a position to bid,” says Hervé Germain, co-CEO of the Myg Design group and First Vice-President of Neopolia.
The Loire Princesse which entered commercial service in 2015 (© Neopolia - Bernard Biger)
River cruise vessels for CroisiEurope
In 2014, shortly after discovering that companies working for the Saint-Nazaire shipyards could apply their skills to river cruise vessels, French cruise operator CroisiEurope entrusted a group of them with its first project. In the spring of 2015, the 48-cabin, 88.8-metre-long Loire Princesse took its first passengers on a Loire cruise. Neopolia Marine then won the contract to build the 40-cabin, 95-metre Elbe Princesse. Both vessels feature state-of-the-art paddlewheel propulsion.
Elbe Princesse, delivered in Q2 2016, spent its inaugural season cruising between Berlin and Prague. Paddlewheel propulsion enables the boat to operate in very shallow water. Indeed, the very low level of the Elbe and Vltava rivers last European summer meant that the Elbe Princesse was able to keep cruising all summer long…
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