‘Hey, we did something great’ – on Finnish shipbuilding history



What makes Finns great ship designers? Forum Marinum has compiled a book of the five decades of Finnish cruise vessel design, with expectations for the future, narrated by accomplished experts on ship design and academia.

What made Finns become excellent designers and builders of cruise vessels intended for warm waters? The answer is – we have ice! Our challenging, fast-changing weather conditions require innovation and high technical expertise from ship designers and builders. We have utilised this expertise since the beginning of modern shipbuilding from the early 1900s.

We Finns have successfully designed and built cruise vessels for over fifty years. The basis for this competence was laid by building special vessels for challenging weather conditions. In the end of the 1950s the standard of living began to increase in Finland, there was more free time and more family cars. One could drive to the seaworthy drive-through ferries and shop tax-free on the way to our neighbouring country. These ‘Baltic cruise ferries’ built in Finland are still today an essential part of our travel, having evolved into more versatile, entertaining vessels in which also business events are hosted.


The first leisure cruise ship vessels built in Finland were delivered from Hietalahti shipyard in 1970–72 to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. In Song of Norway, Nordic Prince and Sun Viking customer experience, interior and outdoor space aesthetics and operational efficiency were intertwined. Building these ships marks the beginning of co-operation between Finnish ship design, shipyards and ship owners.


Top results with collaboration

The core success factor in ship design and shipbuilding is collaboration. In cruise ship building this is particularly emphasised since a specialised supplier network may contribute to up to 80 per cent of the value of a cruise vessel. More than 1.5 million manhours are needed to complete the design phases of a large cruise vessel. The work is divided among several parties. For example, Allstars Engineering’s design teams’ manhours may add up to hundreds of thousands of hours for a single ship design project. Smooth project management and data flow between parties is a must. Ship design projects are true masterpieces of collaboration.


Our five decades of cruise vessel design have seen a tremendous development. An example of great Finnish innovations is cabin module with its unique building method. Finnish designers’ technical knowledge needs to rise to the challenge and enable the visions. How are we going to use the ships in the future? Is the entire shipbuilding network going to envision this together? Our achievements show that by harnessing the Finnish know-how we will achieve great results also in the decades to come!


Song of Norway – Timo Kauppila, INDAV

Athena restaurant, GTS Finnjet, The dining room of m/s Finnhansa – Bruce Peter collection

Voyager of the Seas – Meyer Turku

Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas by night – Royal Caribbean Cruises

Creating Luxury – On Finnish Shipbuilding History (ed. Sari Mäenpää) is available on Traffic Museums’ web shop. The book is trilingual: Finnish, Swedish and English.

The title of this article starts with a quote from Creating Luxury, page 131.

Creating Luxury table of contents with authors and articles to be found for quick familiarisation here.

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