The keel laying for the first of Swan Hellenic’s two new ice-class expedition ships has taken place at a shipyard in Finland.

The first next generation vessel will be christened Minerva in honour of the company’s first purpose-built vessel.

The two ships are due to enter service in November 2021 and April 2022.

They will each carry 152 passengers in 76 cabins and suites, the majority with balconies.

Minerva will be operated by an on board team of 120 crew.

The ship will feature a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system with selective catalytic reduction, battery package and ice-strengthened hull.

The 10,500-ton vessel has been specially designed to explore the most inaccessible places in the world.

Helsinki shipyard project manager Jonas Packalan said: “New build 516 and her sister NB 517 are designed for extreme weather conditions, from polar areas with quite heavy ice conditions to tropical regions. And they are naturally designed to respect the sensitive ecosystems of the regions where they’re going to sail.”

Yard chief executive Carl-Gustaf Rotkirch added: “We are very happy to have been able to invite our workers back, engaging them in this exciting project.

“Now we can do what we know best – designing and building ships with a great history behind them and an even greater future ahead.

“These vessels for the iconic Swan Hellenic are inspiring us, and I hope the customer feels that.”