‘With the growing Chinese middle-class population, consumer demand is increasing. People are looking for more diversified and high-end products for vacation and we believe cruise is a sunrise industry which could bring huge social and economic benefits to China,’ commented Nan Daqing, deputy general manager of CSSC, one of China’s leading shipbuilding groups.
‘It is not enough to secure ship calls and homeport operations,’ he added, ‘to build a cruise ship is the inevitable trend that China is already involved in.’
Two plus four newbuilds for Carnival Corp
In February 2017, Fincantieri, CSSC and Carnival Corporation signed a binding agreement for the construction of two cruise ships, with an option for an additional four, at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding (SWS) shipyard.
‘China needs to cooperate with global experts,’ said Nan Daqing. ‘To build and operate the first cruise ship built for the Chinese market in Shanghai will become a reality in the near future.’
The country took a big step forward when the agreement was signed to build the first cruise ship in China. Expert teams have been established to fully support the whole process,’ he shared.
‘We have established an experimental and development center in Shanghai to further support the cruise ship construction,’ said Chen Shi, director Shanghai Rules & Research Institute of CCS.
The first few orders in hand doesn’t mean China is completely ready for cruise shipbuilding, commented Chen. ‘There are lots of challenges China is facing to build cruise ships.’
Firstly, the development and research of cruise ship construction is not easy, we are not simply designing the ship, but developing it in China. We must work closely with the cruise line and the ship investor to make it clear on what they are expecting then we will be able to find the solutions. Secondly, we should not aim to capture the cruise shipbuilding market by the number of vessels we can build, but on quality as a cruise ship is quite different from a cargo ship.’
‘We can sign a deal to build tens or hundreds of cargo ships but we can not do that for cruise ships as they are unique,’ Chen continued.
Another obstacle of cruise shipbuilding locally is the lack of supporting facilities and related resources. China needs to build the supply chain for cruise shipbuilding and establish a full service pool. ‘We expect to establish a more matured supply chain for the cruise industry in China in the coming 3-5 years,’ Chen predicted.
Waigaoqiao and China Merchants Heavy Industries building cruise ships
Currently, China has two yards involved in cruise ship construction: Waigaoqiao and China Merchants Heavy Industries. The keel-laying for Greg Mortimer, SunStone Ships’ first Infinity-class cruise vessel being built by China Merchants Heavy Industries, took place in Haimen, in June.
Scheduled for delivery in August 2019, the 180-passenger expedition ship will be operated by Aurora Expeditions, Australia on a long-term, deck and engine timecharter.
The Infinity vessels, ordered by SunStone comprises a framework agreement for four firm orders and six options with partners China Merchants Industry Holdings, China Merchants Heavy Industries, Ulstein Design and Solutions, Makinen-Finland, Tillberg Design-US, SunStone Ships and SunStone Marine Advisors-Miami.
China Merchants Group (CMG) which is capable of building river cruise ships for the Yangtze, is now cooperating with Nantong, Jiangsu Province, to develop a yard capable of building ocean cruise ships as well as othetr vessel types.
‘To meet the fast growing demands of China and the Asia-Pacific region, China Merchants is investing in the construction of cruise shipbuilding facilities,’ commented Wang Cuijun, evp of CMG.
The building of a cruise ship at Waigaoqiao Shipyard under the arm of CSSC has triggered large cruise ship construction in China, while CSIC, the counterpart of CSSC, is also looking for opportunities in cruise shipbuilding. ‘CSIC is picking suitable and qualified locations among many of its yards to develop cruise shipbuilding,’ according to Zhou Jianhua, md of Cosco Shipping Heavy Industry (Zhoushan).
John Hemgard, global marine director, naval architect & marine engineer, United Technologies predicted that Chinese yards will be able to build six ships per year by 2030, while Chen suggested output will be 5-7 believing the number to be ‘rational and reasonable’. Raoul Jack, regional gm, passenger ship & ferry services, Bureau Veritas, was more optimistic estimating the tally of between 12-15 cruise ships per annum ‘if everything goes on well.’