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main index                                 © Jeff Matthews                 entry Nov. 2002      updates: June 2014 & Feb 2017


Castellammare & Shipbuilding   (3 entries)


Vesuvius seen from the port
of Castellammare

View of
                  Vesuvius from CastellammareThe Castellammare shipyard near Naples seems to be bustling and in fine shape. The 56,000 ton Grande Francia has been finished and will be christened and launched shortly. It is one of the so-called "Car Trak Carrier" fleet of the Grimaldi Group of Naples and is the first of five such ships to be built. They will all have the capacity to transport 2500 cars, 850 containers and have a "linear capacity" of 2500 meters for additional heavy vehicles. Another of the five, Grande Amburgo, will be built in Castellammare starting in the new year. Yards in Palermo and Ancona will take over the construction of the other three. A new cruise ship, the Ferryn Athara, for the Tirrenia lines, will also start construction in Castellammare in 2003. 

Castellammare has a long history as a shipyard. Neapolitans learned shipbuilding from the Phoenicians and the Greeks, then became the principal shipwrights for the Romans, contributing to the Empire's domination of the Mediterranean. Neapolitan shipwrights continued their activity even during the Middle Ages, thanks to extensive merchant and cultural trading between Europe and the Middle East. The Normans, Swabians, Angevins and Aragonese carried on maritime commerce, and Naples was of primary importance in the southern Tyrrhenian sea. In 1571, Neapolitan yards contributed greatly to the successful outcome of the Battle of Lepanto by furnishing a number of ships in the victorious fleet.

below: the  ship-of-the line, Monarca (see link - great story!),
launched in 1850 at Castellammare

In 1734 with the ascension of the Bourbons to the throne, Neapolitan shipwrights began building naval ships for the protection of the newly independent kingdom. In 1739 the first completely Bourbon frigate was launched, the S. Carlo e Partenope. In the same year in Naples, the Accademia di Marina was opened; it was the first academy in Italy for the training of naval officers. In 1780 Ferdinand IV established a Ministry of the Royal Navy and opened a shipyard at Castellammare di Stabia to build ships for the fleets of the kingdom. Ferdinand chose Castellammare as the site of the royal shipyards because of the inhabitants' reputation as master craftsmen. The kingdom, itself, was unstable at times, but the Bourbons, nevertheless, developed the facility at Castellammare into one of the most impressive in the Mediterranean.


(below, left: The cruiser Dante Alighieri,
launched in 1910 at Castellammare.

In 1818 at Vigliena, the first steamship in Italy was launched, the Ferdinand I. By the time of Italian unification (1861), the yards at Castellammare had built fifty ships of medium tonnage for the navy, as well as countless smaller merchant vessels. On January 18, 1859, Francesco II witnessed the launching of what turned out to be the last ship built for the navy of Naples, the frigate Borbone. 

The last years of the kingdom of Naples saw a general restructuring of port facilities. In addition to the shipyards, the Kingdom of Naples had other considerable industrial and manufacturing activity, particularly in metallurgy, an industry which drew widebased financial support from English, French and Swiss entrepreneurs.

Naval training ship, the Amerigo Vespucci, in the bay of Naples

With the unification of Italy came a reevaluation of the shipyards of the ex-Kingdom of Naples. The question of Castellammare was, of course, but one part of the much larger question of just how much industry should be assigned to the southern half of a  unified nation. 

Since unification, Castellammare has had to contend with numerous proposals to close the shipyards altogether. Also, it has had to battle competition from other shipyards throughout Italy. Nevertheless, between 1861 and 1918 the yards launched 83 naval vessels such as the one shown (above, left), many of which proved to be among the finest in the nation's fleets. From 1918 to the early 1980s, 170 more ships were built at Castellammare, some of more than 50,000 tons capacity. Two ships, well-known to all, have come from the Castellammare yards: the naval training sailing ship, Amerigo Vespucci (1931) (image, above) (as well as her sister-ship, the Cristoforo Colombo -1928), and the bathyscaph Triest (1953) which took Auguste Piccard down to 3,150 meters in the waters off of the island of Ponza.


2.              update June 2014
The Castellammare shipyards today.             
The first item, above, is from 12 years ago. I am happy to say that the "bustling and in fine shape" lead doesn't need the drastic revision I thought it would. It seems that barely a week has gone by over the last decade or so without some gloom and doom prophecy about the Castellammare shipyards appearing in the papers. The dire predictions have all focused on industrial/labor problems—not enough money, not enough work, lay-offs, etc. none of which I feel particularly well-qualified to comment upon. I report only that over the last ten years, this place keeps cranking out commercial ships. (Most modern Italian military ships are from the yards in Genoa, I think.) Since 2002 the yards at Castellammare have turned out numerous smaller craft of  the hydrofoil taxi variety and consistently one large ship a year, usually one of those large passenger ferries, meaning around 200-225 meters long with space for around 2000-2500 passengers and hundreds of vehicles. (They are very utilitarian vessels, by the way, and are how most of us boat around the Mediterranean.) This, as opposed to those super cruise ships, those new ones that look like a cross between an aircraft carrier and a Christmas tree. They can be well over 300 meters in length and carry 5,000 passengers and crew. (My one and only adventure aboard such a monster is here.)


3. update 2 - Feb 10, 2017

Fincantieri & Castellammare

(Feb 10) – Fincantieri (Italian Naval Shipyards) [Cantieri Navali Italiani] is an Italian shipbuilding company based in Trieste, Italy. It is the fourth largest shipbuilder in the world. The company builds both commercial and military vessels and has a dozen shipyards in the world, most in Italy, but including two in the U.S. Castellammare is now one of the Fincantieri yards. The advantage of having all those yards in Italy is that you can build sections of the ship in different yards and then have them towed to the main facility for assembly at Monfalcone on the gulf of Trieste way up at the top of the Adriatic. For example, both the shipyard in Palermo (Sicily) and the one at Castellammare near Naples worked on sections of the Ugly Tour Monster of the Sea (officially christened Britannia for P&O Cruises (but look at this photo
I defend my unofficial name!) The ship was welded together and launched in 2015. She is 330 meters long with a beam of 38 meters and is the largest  passenger ship ever built by Fincantieri. Another Fincantieri ship partially built at Castellammare is the Seven Seas Explorer, a cruise ship for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. She entered service in July 2016 and is said to be one of the most luxurious cruise ships ever built. This answers one of those nagging questions I have had about Castellammare: What are all those bits and piece of ships doing lying or floating around? They never seem to get finished. Now I know. They are towed elsewhere for the final assembly.


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