Carnival Corporation is considering building its first cruise ships in China to tap into one of the fastest growing cruise markets in the world.

The US cruise giant is exploring a three-way joint venture with the China State Shipbuilding Corporation and Italy’s Fincantieri, the world’s largest cruise ship building company.

The aim would be to support the Chinese government’s plans to grow the industry in China and meet escalating demand for cruises from Chinese travellers which is expected to reach 4.5 million passengers by 2020.

Under the joint venture concept, Carnival Corporation would provide its ship design and shipbuilding expertise to create the “vision, definition and overall specifications” for the China-built cruise ship.

The company is to explore other possible joint venture opportunities with CSSC, including the potential to form a domestic cruise company, port development, “talent development” and training as well as supply chain and logistics.

Chief executive Arnold Donald said: “This is really a breakthrough day for all of us at Carnival, as well as our friends at the CSSC and all Chinese travelers who are increasingly turning to cruises for their vacation experiences.

“This landmark agreement enables us to work closely with our partners at the CSSC to fully explore the possibility of forming a joint venture to further develop China into a leading cruise market, supporting local economic development and bringing vacation enjoyment to millions.”

The Chinese transport ministry wants to transform China into a leading global cruise market, including investment in infrastructure and developing a strong domestic cruise presence to help spur growth in cruising as a key component of the expanding tourism industry in the country.

Its forecasts suggest China will become be the second largest global cruise market after the US based on economic growth, increased spending power of Chinese consumers and growing demand for cruises.

Partnerships like the relationship being fully explored between CSSC and Carnival support the MOT’s pro-growth cruise policies designed to spur new economic development from tourism in China.

Carnival Corporation brand Costa Cruises is adding the Costa Serena to its fleet in China from next April. This will give the group four ships with home ports in the country, including Costa Atlantica, Costa Victoria and Sapphire Princess.