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China boosts cruise shipbuilding industry

While Infinity-class ships are identical technically, their charterers help determine the interior design.

Posted on November 1, 2023

China is moving forward with its cruise shipbuilding plans as it gears up for the delivery of its first domestically built large cruise ship.
Adora Magic City will officially begin operations on the first day of 2024.

The ship completed its second sea trial in September 2023, following its first sea trial in July. The 324-m long, 37-m wide ship has been built by Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding, a CSSC subsidiary.

Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding general manager and chief designer of the shipyard’s large cruise ship project, Chen Gang, was reported in Chinese media as saying, “It marks the completion of China’s first large-scale cruise ship, which will accommodate 5,246 guests and serve the burgeoning domestic cruise market when it is put into full operation.”

Adora Cruises is a joint venture between Carnival Corp and China State Shipbuilding Corp.

In November 2018, CSSC signed a co-operation agreement for the design and construction of two 135,500-tonne Vista-class cruise ships with Carnival Corp and Fincantieri.

Infinity-class customisation 

China is keen to build up its cruise building business, and while this is its first domestic ship to be built in China, it is also keen for business from other countries.

SunStone Maritime Group is a first mover, as it was the first to build cruise ships in China, at CMHI Shipyard in Haimen. But while its Infinity-class ships were built in China, Ulstein in Europe oversaw the technical design and Tomas Tillberg Design looked after the interior design.

As SunStone Ships comes to the end of its Infinity-class ships, with the seventh and final Infinity ship to be built, it gives some thoughts about major themes running through these vessels.

As well as being technologically advanced, with Safe Return to Port, Polar Class 6, an inverted bow, zero-speed stabilisers, dynamic positioning, and the energy saving X-Bow (Ulstein’s patented X-bow technology ), in a recent article for PST’s sister publication, Passenger Ship Interior & Refurbishment Review, it was highlighted that a major focus running through the series of ships is to customise the product for different charterers.

Highlighting the difference in the interior designs of Infinity class, SunStone Maritime Group chief commercial officer Carsten Lund singles out Ocean Albatros, chartered to Albatros Expeditions and delivered earlier this year, and Ocean Odyssey, which was delivered in October last year to US travel firm Vantage.

“Our charterers for these ships have passengers of different ages and nationalities and they want interiors suitable for their customers. In Ocean Albatros, we see a lot of Scandinavia-inspired design as there is a slightly younger audience here compared with some of our American clients,” says Mr Lund.

Ocean Odyssey has customers that tend to be Americans of an older generation. Here, the spaces are more decorative and darker colours are used. Also, compared with Ocean Albatros, the bow is more open, there are more public spaces and fewer cabins.

Mr Lund comments, “While our ships are identical technically, their charterers come in and have a say when it comes to the interior design. They can make it their ship, it’s their name on the side and logo on the product. This type of flexibility makes the ship their own.”

He singles out SunStone’s charters are long term, usually 10-15 years, so with that length of time it is important charterers customise in a way that fits their own product.

As SunStone finishes its Infinity-class ships – the seventh and final vessel will be delivered in 2025 – there is no doubt the Chinese yard must have learned important lessons.

NewMax in Heysham

E-Flexer developments

Elsewhere, the country is also keen to capitalise on ferry building. Stena RoRo is building its line of E-Flexer ferries at China Merchants Jinling (Weihai) Shipyard. In May 2023, it was announced that on behalf of Stena Line, Stena RoRo has designed and ordered two hybrid cargo ships. The ships can be powered by methanol or conventional fuel and have been developed in line with future environmental requirements, for example by using batteries as a future means of propulsion. Major emphasis has been placed on optimising the cargo capacity, which has been increased by 80%.

The vessels have been designed for Stena Line’s route between Belfast and Heysham on the Irish Sea and have enhanced manoeuvrability. Stena RoRo is responsible for the contract and construction of the NewMax vessels and delivery is scheduled for 2025.

“These vessels are a further development of our previous cargo ship concepts where a focus on sustainability and future-proofing with multi-fuel combustion engines are prioritised,” says Stena RoRo managing director Per Westling.

Both cargo vessels are designed with limited length and a shallow draught to suit the special conditions in the narrow port of Heysham.

The vessels, which have a length of 147 m, capacity of 2,800 lane metres, 12 passengers and 25 crew, are slated for delivery in June 2025 and November 2025.

In the same month, Stena RoRo delivered the first of two extended E-Flexer ferries to Stena Line. Stena Estelle will operate on the Karlskrona-Gdynia line. Like all ships in the E-Flexer series, the new ferry is tailored to the customers’ specific preferences and needs.

In total, Stena Line will operate five E-Flexer vessels, with two of them being the extended version. The fourth in the order has now been delivered. Compared with the basic design, the ferry has been extended by 36 m. With the extension, the ferry is 240-m long and has an increased capacity of 50% more cabins, 30% more passengers and 15% more cargo. Loading and unloading are streamlined with a drive-through configuration for both car decks.

Stena RoRo currently has 12 confirmed orders for E-Flexer vessels. All are being built at the CMI Jingling Shipyard in Weihai, China.

The E-Flexer series is based on a concept entailing a larger configuration than with today’s standard ropax-type ferries and it is highly flexible. Each ship is tailored to customers’ needs, both commercially and technically. Optimised hull design, propellers and rudders help to ensure that E-Flexer vessels are at the forefront when it comes to durability, performance, cost and energy efficiency.

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