Birth of vessels

From design preparation to commissioning, building a liner or cargo ship is a key project and pivotal event for shipping companies.

Shipbuilding Yards

Shipbuilding yards are places of design, manufacture and assembly where projects for shipping company vessels come to life. Once the order contract is signed and the design plans are approved by the company, construction is started by laying the first metal sheet. In the months to follow, hundreds of shipyard workers assemble components made in their workshops, or from the best industry manufacturers, to create the new ship.

The Launch

Once construction of the hull is complete, the launch ceremony for the vessel is held before a host of personalities invited to the event, with a huge crowd coming to witness the momentous occasion. After the boat is blessed by a clergyman, the godmother performs the christening, symbolized by cutting the ribbon and releasing the bottle of champagne that shatters against the bow. The vessel glides across the slipway and plunges into the sea for the first time, before it is towed to the fitting-out quay to be finished.

The Godmothers

Normally the spouses of company executives or politicians are selected to carry out this tradition to ward off bad luck and, more recently, women from the world of art, politics and economics. For more iconic ships, it was customary to ask wives of heads of state, who were in office at the time of the launch, to ensure that this gesture brought good luck. As such, Madame Lebrun accompanied the Normandie on its maiden voyage in 1935 to be presented to the City of New York, where the liner and its passengers were received with full honors. Madame de Gaulle, who christened France in 1960, followed its first crossing during the ship’s maiden voyage to the Canary Islands. However, long before these women, Empress Eugénie sponsored the ship bearing her name in 1864, one of the first transatlantic vessels commissioned by French Line.

Facilities and Decor

The ship is finally completed on arrival to the fitting-out quay. Workmen busy themselves by fitting the superstructures (chimneys, etc.) and creating the on-board facilities. Once the various decks are arranged and the areas are partitioned, the plans drawn up by the architects and decorators begin to take shape. These individuals fiercely competed to be among the candidates chosen by the shipping companies and to showcase their creation as one of the most prestigious ambassadors of the sea. Many famous names left their mark on French company vessels, including designers Richard Bouwens van der Boijen, Pierre Patout and Jules Leleu, as well as renowned artists such as Jean Dunand, René Lalique and Robert Wogensky.

Port life