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MSC Orders Next-Gen Cruise Ships With LNG and Hydrogen Power

LNG and hydrogen cruise ships
Original design for the Explora cruise ships will be lengthened for the LNG and hydrogen power plants (Explora Journeys)

Published Jul 6, 2022 1:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

MSC Group announced plans to expand its yet-to-be-launched luxury cruise brand Explora Journeys with two additional ships while also incorporating LNG power plants and hydrogen fuel cells into the design. MSC and Fincantieri signed a memorandum of agreement to increase the fleet to six cruise ships with the first two, Explora I and Explora II, currently under construction at the Monfalcone, Italy shipyard.

The adoption of the new, greener technologies, follows an emerging trend in the cruise industry. MSC’s broad market contemporary cruise brand MSC Cruises converted the final cruise ship of its Meraviglia-Plus class currently being built in France to an LNG-fueled power plant while the company is also preparing for the first of its large LNG-fueled cruise ships due for delivery later this year. Fincantieri has also started construction on its first LNG-fueled cruise ships for Germany’s Tui Cruises and Princess Cruises while in Finland, Meyer Turku recently started construction on the first methanol-ready cruise ship also being built for TUI Cruises. Viking recently said that two of its future cruise ships due to launch in 2024 and 2025 will also have a hybrid power plant with hydrogen fuel cells.

Under the terms of today’s agreement with Fincantieri, work will be suspended on the construction of Explora III and Explora IV, which were part of the original $2 billion 2019 order for four 63,000 gross ton cruise ships. MSC will pay an additional $120 million per ship for the redesign to accommodate the LNG plant. The company said that each ship will be lengthened by approximately 62 feet from the planned length of 813 feet to enable the installation of the new power plants. Delivery of the two cruise ships, which had been scheduled for 2024 and 2025, is being rescheduled to 2026 and 2027.

MSC also ordered two additional cruise ships of the call, Explora V and Explora VI, which Fincantieri says will feature a new generation of liquefied natural gas engines that will tackle the issue of methane slip. In addition, the new ships will also be equipped with “industry-first environmental technologies and solutions, including a containment system for liquid hydrogen that will enable them to use this promising low-carbon fuel.” Hydrogen fuel will power a six-megawatt fuel cell to produce power for the hotel operation and allow the vessels to run on “zero emissions” in port, with the engines turned off. The two newbuilds will come into service in 2027 and 2028.

Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group is calling Explora, “the cruise ships of tomorrow utilizing today’s latest technologies and being ready to adapt to alternative energy solutions as they become available.” He cites LNG as the cleanest marine fuel currently available at scale while saying it will play a significant role in climate change mitigation with the engines having the potential to reduce CO2emissions by up to 25 percent compared to standard marine fuels. MSC also looks to the future with the potential for the increasing availability of bio and synthetic forms of LNG.

All six ships in Explora Journeys’ fleet will also be equipped with the latest environmental and marine technologies. This includes selective catalytic reduction technology to enable a reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions, shore power plug-in connectivity, and underwater noise management systems.  

“This is the very first major agreement for new construction after the pandemic emergency and testifies not only to the further growth of our long-standing partnership with MSC, which we thank, but also the confidence of both groups in the future of the cruise industry,” said Pierroberto Folgiero, who recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of Fincantieri. “These ships will allow us to implement cutting-edge technologies aimed at significantly improving environmental performance, laying the foundations for further developments.”

MSC announced its plans to launch a luxury cruise operation in late 2018 and confirmed the order for the four cruise ships with Fincantieri in 2019. The original design was for 461 suites, penthouses, and residences. The first of the cruise ships, which is due to enter service in 2023, was floated out at the beginning of the month while assembly has also begun on the second cruise ship due for delivery in 2024. Explora said the redesign of the four additional vessels will also permit the cruise line to increase the number of residences and enlarge public areas aboard the newer ships.