The Cruise Division of MSC Group today confirmed firm orders for two hydrogen-powered vessels for its luxury travel brand Explora Journeys with the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri and pledged to continue its push towards a net zero-carbon emissions target by 2050 by investigating additional new and advanced environmental technologies for the luxury ships. The deal completes a total investment of €3.5 billion in six luxury ships for Explora Journeys.

EXPLORA V and EXPLORA VI will have new state-of-the-art energy efficiency measures and will also be capable of using alternative fuels such as bio and synthetic gas and methanol and the Cruise Division will work in the future with Fincantieri to equip the ships with future technologies including carbon capture, and more advanced waste management systems. The two confirmed additions to Explora Journeys’ fleet will be delivered in 2027 and 2028.

The two new ships will pursue the use of liquid hydrogen with fuel cells for their hotel operations while docked in ports to eliminate carbon emissions with the vessels’ engines switched off. The ships will also feature a new generation of LNG engines that will further tackle the issue of methane slip with the use of containment systems.

The Explora Journeys program has marked MSC Cruises’ official entry into the luxury cruise sector. Following the announcement of the luxury brand’s plans, MSC Cruises initially signed an option with Fincantieri for four ships in October 2018, with the order officially placed in March 2019. In 2022, MSC Cruises signed a memorandum of understanding with Fincantieri for two additional hybrid luxury cruise ships, bringing the brand’s total number of ships from four to six.

LNG is one of the world’s cleanest marine fuels currently available at scale and is set to play a key role in the transition to the decarbonisation of international shipping. It substantially reduces local air pollutant emissions with sulphur oxides falling by up to 99 per cent and nitrogen oxides decreasing by up to 85 per cent. LNG also plays a key role in climate change mitigation as it offers up to a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Further environmental benefits are expected following the availability at scale of synthetic LNG.

Explora Journeys’ first ship, EXPLORA I was delivered by Fincantieri in July 2023 and is currently operating in Northern Europe.

EXPLORA II will enter service in summer 2024 and operate until April 2025 in the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and Africa visiting 82 ports in 26 countries.

“The LNG-powered EXPLORA III, which began construction on September 6, 2023, is expected to enter service in the summer of 2026. Construction of LNG-powered EXPLORA IV will begin in January 2024 and will be completed in early 2027.

Fincantieri stated, 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.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding

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