Naples:life,death & Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Nov. 2002  update: June 2014, May 2019 & Oct.2021

Castellammare & Shipbuilding

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.

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

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.

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.

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.) 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.)

- - - - - - - - - - added May 2019

the Trieste
On May 25 the shipyards at Castellammare launched their largest ship since WW2. She is the Trieste, called by NATO countries an LHD (for Landing Helicopter Dock), commonly called a "Helicopter Carrier" but is indeed much more than that. Trieste is 245 meters (804ft) long, 36 m (118ft) at the beam (wide), and displaces 33,000 tons. The flight deck is 230m (755ft) × 36m (118ft) and accommodates 9 heavy helicopters or 4 short take-off and landing fighters such as the F-35B. Besides being a fighting ship, the Trieste is intended to aid in humanitarian crises, such as sea rescues, evacuations of persons from stricken areas and to furnish fresh water, food and electricity to areas in need. To those ends the ship is equipped with 1060 beds, well-equipped hospital facilities, and ample space for a variety of sea-borne vehicles (motor launches and rafts) and land vehicles (wheeled as well as continuous-track, such as a tank or bull-dozer).
The Trieste is marked by a well dock or well deck, officially termed a 'wet well', which can be flooded for operations. It is a hangar-like deck at the waterline in the stern. By taking on water the ship can lower the stern, flooding the well deck and letting boats, amphibious vehicles and landing craft off-load and also dock within the ship.
The Trieste is meant to replace a decommissioned light aircraft carrier and is expected to be fully operational in 2022.

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added Nov. 2019
Flo-Flo at Castellammare

"Flo/Flo" (From float-on/float off) vessels are specialized Heavy Lift Ships. They are submersible hull ships that load, transport, and off-load extremely heavy or out-sized cargo independent of port equipment cargo such as yachts, tug boats, barges, landing craft, floating cranes, etc. Flo-Flos are designed to take on ballast water in floodable  tanks and partially submerge the vessel. Cargo is then floated over the submerged portion of the vessel that then deballasts and surfaces under the cargo. After the vessel is full afloat, the cargo is secured for transport.

This type of operation is seen in these photos at the port of Castellammare, where, in the top image, the Chinese-built Flo-Flo is shown empty. She is the Hua Yang Long, built in 2015 at the Guangzhou Shipyard and is property of the Guangzhou Salvage Bureau. (Guangzhou is still commonly known in English as Canton and is one of China's three largest cities). The Hua Yang Long is 228 meters long and 43 meters wide. The image on the right shows the Chinese ship loaded with the Giulio Verne, a cable-laying vessel and bound for the Philippines where she will lay communication cables.
- - - - - - - - - -

added Oct. 2021
Msc Cruises (Mediterranean Shipping Company)

In mid 2020, cruise lines suspended operations for over six months during the COVID-19pandemic. With things looking better the Castellammare shipyards have started construction of "Explorer II" the newest cruise ship of Msc Cruises. That company is a global cruise line registered in Switzerland, based in Geneva, and founded in Naples in 1989. Msc Cruises is part of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world's second-biggest container shipping operator. Msc is the world's largest privately held cruise company, with 23,500 employees worldwide with offices in 45 countries. As of 2017, MSC Cruises is the fourth-largest cruise company in the world, after Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, with a 7.2% share of all passengers carried in 2017. Msc goes back to the Lauro Lines, founded in Naples by Achille Lauro in 1960. That company entered the cruise business with two ships, MS Angelina Lauro and MS Achille Lauro. The former burnt in the port of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands in 1979 and the latter was hijacked by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985, which put the company in financial difficulties. As I say in my original item on Achille Lauro, his passenger liner, Achille Lauro, continued in service until 1994 when she caught fire off the coast of Somalia, was abandoned, and sank.

In the last 30 years Msc has built acquired well over a dozen cruise ships. This latest one will be one of four luxury ships of 64,000 gross tons each. The first ship, Explorer II, will launch in the spring of 2023. All ships will be built
in Castellammare. Among the newest luxeries will be the "world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant," an artificial
intelligence "gizmo" to help you with the hard stuff, such as finding your room and getting tickets for the next keelhauling. Most of the ships fly the Panamanian flag, a few Maltese. The photo (above), typical of many of them, is the MSC Preziosa built in 2013.    

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