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China Begins 120-Day Countdown to Launch of Domestic Cruise Ship

Chinese built large cruise ship
China's first large, domestically built cruise ship is nearing its floatout (SWS photo)

Published Feb 15, 2023 1:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

Chinese officials are proudly showing off the construction progress on the country’s first large, domestically-built cruise ship. During a recent briefing at the Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding yard, they reported that the vessel is approaching 90 percent completion with a final 120-day push underway before the unnamed cruise ship is floated out from the dry dock.

The 135,000 gross ton cruise ship is seen as a major achievement for the division of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and the Chinese shipbuilding industry. The shipyard is calling it the country’s first foray into advanced manufacturing. Cruise ships they explained are among the most difficult and intricate vessels to build because of the vast range of systems involved. They require 20 times more man-hours to build than a typical Capesize bulker which is seen as one of the most basic shipbuilding products.

“The consensus among industry insiders is that large cruise ships are not just a ship, but a supreme masterpiece and comprehensive collection of modern industries,” writes the shipbuilder on its website.

Currently, only known by its hull number H1508, the cruise ship is being built for Adora Cruises, the newly launched brand from the joint venture between Carnival Corporation and CSSC. Construction began in 2019 with Fincantieri serving as a consultant to the Chinese shipyard. The construction has been broken down into a series of project steps so that the Chinese could master the individual elements involved in cruise ship construction. The ship was floated for the first time in December 2022 while construction continued in the dry dock.

Shanghai Waigaoqiao reports that it has now completed the primary elements of the machinery spaces aboard the vessel including testing and commissioning. They have also completed elements such as the vessel’s 28 elevators and two service lifts while commissioning is underway for the air conditioning, refrigeration, and ventilation systems as well as testing on the plumbing systems. Pipe installation and paint work are also entering the final stage.

According to the current 120-day plan, the cruise ship will be floated and moved from the dry dock where it was assembled by June 2023. The following month, in July they expect to conduct the first sea trials with the official naming ceremony planned for November. The handover will be in December with the vessel entering commercial service by early 2024.

The timing of the completion coordinates with the anticipated restart of China’s cruise industry. According to the Global Times, China’s cabinet has issued a policy calling for a piloted resumption of the cruise industry. Hong Kong reopened in January 2023 and it is anticipated that the mainland will begin a phased return this year. Industry executives are predicting that cruising in China could be back in full operation by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

Shanghai Waigaoqiao is already moving forward with the country’s second large domestic cruise ship construction project due for delivery in 2025. Steel cutting began in August 2022 for the second cruise ship and the first blocks will be placed in the dry dock by July, shortly after the first vessel is floated out. The first cruise ship is 1,061 feet in length with 2,125 cabins to accommodate a maximum of 5,246 passengers. The second vessel is an enlarged version of the same design, 57 feet longer which will increase the gross tonnage to approximately 142,000 tons. The shipbuilder is saying there are several other design changes including a different funnel for the second cruise ship.

CSSC is also seeking to further develop its position in the cruise industry. In addition to presenting its first Chinese designs for large cruise ships, which received Approval in Principle in late 2022, they are launching an industrial park in Waigaoqiao. The plan calls for a “world-class cruise manufacturing and assembly base,” to create a cruise cluster. The goal is by 2035 to be globally competitive with the current leading shipyard for cruise construction, Fincantieri, Meyer in Germany and Finland, and Chantiers de l’Atlantique, to compete for future shipbuilding contracts from international companies.