Keel Laid for First New Large Cruise Ship of the COVID-19 Era
In a major sign of confidence in the future of the cruise industry, MSC Cruises celebrated the keel laying for its newest and largest cruise ship, the 205,000 gross ton MSC World Europa. The first block for the massive, LNG-powered cruise ship, which will also be the first built in France, was lowered into place at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire. The ship is rumored to be costing as much as $1.2 billion to build and is the first of four sister ships MSC has ordered from the French shipyard.
The ceremonies also marked the first start of construction on a large cruise ship since the onset of the global pandemic and suspension of cruise operations. News of the ceremony comes as construction on most new cruise ships has been delayed and cruise lines have been seeking to reschedule or hold off on deliveries and future orders. Meyer Werft recently reported that Carnival Corporation and its P&O Cruises brand are continuing to delay the delivery of the Iona, which was built in Papenburg, Germany, and is now completed. The Iona was recently sent back to Bremerhaven after drydocking and a final inspection in Rotterdam to await an unspecified delivery date.
MSC had signed a memorandum of understanding in May 2017 firming up the order of two 200,000 GRT, LNG-powered mega cruise ships, with options for two additional vessels. The four ships would become MSC Cruises’ World Class. Steel cutting for the first of the vessels began at the end of October 2019 with her delivery scheduled for May 2022. The sister ships were scheduled for delivery in 2024, 2025 and 2027.
The first block for the MSC World Europa being lowered into the dry dock for assembly in France
“MSC World Europa is further proof of our commitment to environmental stewardship as she is set to reduce carbon emissions even further than many other existing cruise ships powered by LNG, which is currently the most environmentally-friendly fuel for commercial maritime operations,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman, MSC Cruises. “With this vessel, we also reconfirm our belief in investing in advanced environmental technology to meet our long-term goal of zero emissions from operations.”
The designs for the World Class in addition to the LNG-power plant also feature other advanced, environmentally-friend designs including the first use of a LNG-powered fuel cell. It will feature a 50-kilowatt demonstrator system that incorporates solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology and use LNG to produce electricity and heat onboard. According to MSC, this SOFC solution will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by about 30 percent compared with a conventional LNG engine, with no emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides or fine particles. It also offers the advantage of being compatible with LNG, as well as several low carbon fuels such as types of methanol, ammonia, and hydrogen. The MSC World Europa will also feature a new generation wastewater treatment system that exceeds current stringent regulatory standards, as well as other cutting-edge environmental technology.
With a length of 333.3 meters, the new ship will be among the largest cruise ships in the world and only one of a few to exceed 200,000 gross tons. With 2,632 passenger cabins, the ship will accommodate a total passenger capacity of 6,761 along with 2,139 in crew.
The World Class is part of an aggressive overall expansion plan that had been laid out for MSC's cruise operations. Currently with a fleet of 17 cruise ships, MSC has committed to an €11.6 billion plan that calls for its cruise fleet to grow to 25 ships by 2027. Additionally, MSC Group’s Cruises Division is was also scheduled to invest an additional €2 billion in a new luxury cruise brand comprising four super-yacht ships being built by Fincantieri and due to launch one per year between 2023 and 2026.
MSC Cruises currently has canceled its worldwide cruise operations until August 2020.