MSC Cruises orders hydrogen fuel cell newbuild duo from Fincantieri

Written by Nick Blenkey
Explora Journeys ship

Explora Journey's new ships will feature hydrogen fuel cells

Explora Journeys, the luxury travel brand of the MSC Group’s cruise division, has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with shipbuilder Fincantieri covering the construction of an additional two luxury cruise ships.

In addition to new generation LNG-fueled engines with reduced methane slip they will feature a containment system for liquid hydrogen that will will power a 6 MW fuel cell that will deliver emissions-free power for hotel operations and allow for zero-emissions operations in port, with the engines turned off.

The two newbuilds—the Explora V and Explora VI—will come into service in 2027 and 2028, respectively, taking the Explora Journeys fleet to six ships. Explora Journeys’ previously announced vessels Explora III and Explora IV will now be powered by LNG. The two ships will be enlarged by 19 meters to enable the installation of a new generation system based on LNG and hydrogen.

This has provided an opportunity to enhance the mix of suites with an increased number of spacious and luxurious Ocean Residences and larger public spaces.

The brand’s first ship, the 922-passenger Explora I, was floated out from Fincantieri’s Monfalcone, Italy, shipyard earlier this year and is on track to set sail in May 2023, while its second ship is set for delivery in 2024. The 14-deck vessels will each have four swimming pools, including one with a retractable roof and 461 suites.

“Explora Journeys is building ships for tomorrow, utilizing today’s latest technologies and being ready to adapt to alternative energy solutions as they become available.” said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group. “The announcement today marks another significant step forward in our goal as a business to reach net zero emissions by 2050 across all our cruise operation for the two brands and a further proof of our commitment to invest in the most advanced marine environmental technologies available to develop sustainable solutions for the future. This transition to zero emissions operations for the maritime industry is the biggest challenge that we will ever face, and this will only be achieved by everyone playing their part—by investing in research and development and through significant investment both by companies but also governments.”

The two additional ships covered under today’s MOA will bring Explora Journeys’ investment in its fleet to EUR 3.5 billion (about $3.56 billion). This includes an additional EUR 120 million (about $122 million) each for fitting Explora III and Explora IV with LNG engines, a change that required a temporary halt of work due to the significant redesign of the ships. They will now be delivered in 2026 and 2027.

“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 them for, but also the confidence of both groups in the future of the cruise industry,” said Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero. “These ships will allow us to implement cutting-edge technologies aimed at significantly improving environmental performance, laying the foundations for further developments.”

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