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MSC Confirms Order with Fincantieri for Cruise Ships with Fuel Cells

Explora cruise ship
Explora I fitting out at in Italy before her July 2023 delivery (Fincantieri)

Published Sep 21, 2023 4:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise division of MSC Group has confirmed an order for two additional luxury cruise ships to be built by Fincantieri and outfitted with hydrogen fuel cells for its Explora Journeys brand. They had signed a memorandum of intent a year ago to revise and increase the order for the Explora cruise ships bringing the total value of the shipbuilding project to €3.5 billion ($3.7 billion) by 2028. 

The fifth and sixth cruise ships for the Explora brand will incorporate new technologies including as first announced last year they will expand on Fincantieri’s current efforts to develop hydrogen fuel cells. The two new ships will pursue the use of liquid hydrogen with fuel cells for their hotel operations. The goal is to provide sufficient power to support the hotel operations while docked so that the ships can turn off their engines and eliminate emissions in port.

“Our future will depend on our ability to lead the evolution of the sector [cruise] towards all energy and digital transition technologies,” said Pierroberto Folgiero, Chief executive Officer of Fincantieri.

The Italian shipbuilder delivered its first prototype hydrogen fuel cell system to Viking in November 2022 aboard the Viking Neptune. Designed as a test to determine how hydrogen fuel could be developed at a larger scale in future newbuilds, Fincantieri said the experimental hydrogen fuel cell module, a PEM-type fueled with hydrogen gas and room air, would provide a nominal power of 100 kW. The shipbuilder is continuing to research hydrogen fuel cell technology and as a second step said it expects to develop a system with a total power of approximately six to seven MW. 

MSC has already begun early testing of hydrogen fuel cells aboard its French-built cruise the MSC World Europa. In addition, Meyer Werft last month delivered the Silver Nova to Royal Caribbean’s Silversea Cruises with a fuel cell system. Royal Caribbean has reported that the system is designed to provide in-port power to eliminate emissions.

MSC last year revised the order for the 63,900 gross ton luxury cruise ships for its new Explora Journeys brand. The first cruise ship, Explora I was completed as planned and entered service in July 2023 and will be followed by a sister ship in the summer of 2024. The original order called for two additional ships, which have now been redesigned to employ LNG-fueled engines. Steel for Explora III was cut in September 2023 and the ship will enter service in 2026. Construction on Explora IV will begin in January 2024 and will be completed in early 2027. These two ships will be approximately 62 feet longer than the first two to accommodate the new propulsion plant.

“We are seeing continued growth in the luxury segment and the investment in these two new ships shows our commitment to continue to grow within this sector as well as to invest in ships of the future,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman - Cruise Division, MSC Group, announcing the confirmed order for the fifth and sixth cruise ships. “Together with Fincantieri, we will study the newest technology that the world has to offer and continue with our commitment to introduce these technologies to drive efficiencies across the whole spectrum of ship performance.”

They are highlighting that Explora V and Explora VI will have new state-of-the-art energy efficiency measures and will also be capable of using alternative fuels such as bio and synthetic gas and methanol. The ships will feature a new generation of LNG engines that will further tackle the issue of methane slip with the use of containment systems. MSC reports that its Cruise Division will also work in the future with Fincantieri to equip the ships with future technologies including carbon capture, and more advanced waste management systems.