May 16, 2020 — Brodosplit launched the polar expedition ship “Ultramarine”, a €106 million symbol of Croatian shipbuilding’s switch to sophisticated specialized vessels. The new niche within the industry is becoming the country’s largest export, according to government officials.
“All those who think Croatia does not need shipbuilding, this is the real counter to their argument,” Economics Minister Darko Horvat said at the launch.
The “Ultramarine” was the third ship funded by a state guarantee, a new means of keeping Croatia’s shipping industry afloat after the collapse of the Uljanik shipyard in Pula.
“Brodosplit proves that shipbuilding in Croatia can be profitable,” Minister Horvat said. “On this ship, the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development has earned interest, the local community and the state budget has benefited, as well as other public services.”
The “Ultramarine”, 128 meters long and 21,5 meters wide, can hold up to 200 travelers and 140 crew members. Work is on schedule so far. Brodosplit expects the vessel completede and delivered by the end of the year.
Croatia’s Bank for Reconstruction and Development provided the loan for the “Ultramarine” in 2018, with the Croatian government providing state funds as collateral.
The financing model is a variant of the state-backed assistance that kept Croatia’s shipyards operating until new European Rules limiting government backing left the industry on the verge of bankruptcy.
Now, the government finances individual projects instead of shipyards.
Brodosplit benefited from the model as it danced with insolvency. The shipyard received €150 million in guarantees, used to finance two vessels and paid back in full.
Quark Expeditions will add the “Ultramarine” to its fleet of specially equipped boats and icebreakers, which travel to remote locations not accessible by ordinary cruise ships.
Brodosplit remains one of the few shipyards left standing from the Adriatic’s once-dominant shipbuilding industry. It operates at a fraction of its intended capacity, while many of its former competitors along the Dalmatian coast slow down or shutter. Eighty percent of its work is now for foreign firms.