Chinese shipbuilder set to deliver first of 10 such vessels to US-based SunStone
China Merchants Industry Holdings Co (CMI), the marine and offshore manufacturing arm of State-owned China Merchants Group, is expected to deliver 10 cruise ships for polar expeditions to Miami-based SunStone Ships Inc by 2027, company officials said on Wednesday.
The announcement came close on the heels of China Merchants Heavy Industry (Jiangsu) Co, a subsidiary of CMI, launching the first China-made cruise ship for polar expeditions on Tuesday in Haimen, eastern China's Jiangsu province.
According to the shipbuilder, the 104.4-meter long vessel is 18.4 meters at the beam. It can operate at a speed of 15.5 knots. With a gross tonnage of 7,400 metric tons, it has a passenger capacity of 255.
The deal for building 10 polar expedition cruisers was sealed in April 2017 between the Chinese shipyard and SunStone Ships. The cruise ships will be equipped with entertainment systems, ocean adventure and water sport facilities when put into operation.
Hu Xianfu, CMI's general manager, said the ship still needs equipment testing and installation, which will be finished in July before a September delivery to the owner Sunstone Ships, with commercial services expected to start in October this year.
The company began to build the first cruise ship in March 2018. The vessel, for the next step, will carry out various missions including equipment commissioning, internal engineering and tilt test. It is scheduled to have all the operational conditions for the ship delivery in place by the end of July.
Niels-Erik Lund, CEO of Sun-Stone Ships, said this was the first time that a cruise ship for polar expeditions is being built by a Chinese company. SunStone is expecting delivery of the first vessel later this year and it will be used for operations in the Antarctic during the winter season.
Work on the second polar cruise is already underway, while the required steel for the third ship is ready.
Niels said the second polar cruise will be deployed in the Antarctic during the winter, and conduct services close to Alaska during the summer in 2021. The US company will sign the building contract for the remaining cruise vessels after delivery of the first five ships.
The polar cruises will have an advanced electric propulsion and control system, which will provide technical advantages in noise control, comfort and energy consumption, said Yin Haibo, project manager at China Merchants Heavy Industry (Jiangsu) Co.
"Though it is a small-sized cruise ship, it shows that China has taken a big step to independently build cruise products," said Yin. "It will help the company create a system for cruise development, train talent, improve supporting industries and enhance reputation."
China has seen fast industrial growth momentum in cruise shipbuilding business in recent years, with China State Shipbuilding Corp signing a contract to build four and two Vista-class cruise ships of 135,000 tons each for US-based Carnival Cruise Lines and Italy's Fincantieri S.p. A in November last year.
This marks the commencement of design and construction of the first large advanced-level cruise ship in China. The first cruise ship is scheduled to be delivered on Sep 30, 2023 and the second by 2024.
Liu Zheng, a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress and chairman of CSIC Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co in Liaoning province, said for the next step, Chinese shipyards should accelerate the development pace of intelligent manufacturing and high-end ships.
"From a long-term perspective, self-driving and smart vessels are future directions. Chinese shipbuilders need to grasp the opportunities to catch up with global rivals in the field," he said.