Explora Journeys, the luxury travel brand of the MSC Group’s cruise division, and Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri have signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the construction of an additional two hydrogen-powered cruise ships to take the total fleet number from four to six vessels.
EXPLORA V and VI will feature a new generation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) engines that will tackle the issue of methane slip and will also be equipped with industry first environmental technologies and solutions, including a containment system for liquid hydrogen that will enable them to use this promising low-carbon fuel.
Hydrogen fuel will power a six-megawatt fuel cell to produce emissions-free power for the hotel operation and allow the vessels to run on ‘zero emissions’ in port, with the engines turned off.
The two newbuilds are planned to come into service in 2027 and 2028.
Explora Journeys also said that the previously announced vessels EXPLORA III and IV will now be powered by LNG. The two ships will be enlarged by 19 metres to enable the installation of a new generation system based on LNG and hydrogen.
“Explora Journeys is building ships for tomorrow, utilising today’s latest technologies and being ready to adapt to alternative energy solutions as they become available. 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,” Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group, said.
“This transition to zero-emission 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.”
LNG is currently the cleanest marine fuel currently available at scale and it virtually eliminates local air pollutant emissions like sulphur oxides (99 per cent), nitrogen oxides (85 per cent) and particles (98 per cent). In terms of emissions with a global impact, LNG plays a significant role in climate change mitigation with the engines having the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 25 per cent compared to standard marine fuels.
In addition, with the increasing availability of bio and synthetic forms of LNG in the future, this energy source will provide a pathway toward eventual decarbonised operations.
The two additional ships covered under the new MOA will bring Explora Journeys’ investment in its fleet to €3.5 billion ($3.6 billion). This includes an additional €120 million each for fitting EXPLORA III and IV with LNG engines, a change that required a temporary halt of work due to the significant redesign of the ships, which 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, but also the confidence of both groups in the future of the cruise industry. These ships will allow us to implement cutting-edge technologies aimed at significantly improving environmental performance, laying the foundations for further developments,” Pierroberto Folgiero, Chief Executive Officer of Fincantieri, commented.
All six ships in Explora Journeys’ fleet will be equipped with the latest environmental and marine technologies and will also feature the latest selective catalytic reduction technology to enable a reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 per cent, be equipped with shore power plug-in connectivity to reduce emissions in port and fitted with underwater noise management systems to help protect marine life.
All six vessels will also have a comprehensive range of onboard energy-efficient equipment to optimise engine use to further reduce emissions.
The signing of the contract relating to the MoA will be subject to access to financing, as per industry practice.