Carnival Corporation has moved a step closer to launching the first domestic cruise brand in China targeting the Chinese market, along with developing new ports and destinations in the region.

Two joint ventures have been outlined with the signing of a memo of understanding with China Merchants Group, described as one of the most significant Chinese-owned enterprises.

CMG, China’s oldest state enterprise founded in 1872, focuses on transportation, infrastructure, financial services and real estate development.

CMG and the US cruise giant aim to collaborate as strategic partners to develop the infrastructure to help accelerate growth in the cruise industry, seen as one of the key emerging sectors that could help fuel China’s overall maritime economy.

They are to jointly explore two possible joint ventures in support of China’s ambitions to grow the cruising industry and meet escalating demand for cruises.

The first will concentrate on the ownership and operation of cruise ships as part of the first domestic Chinese cruise line, including the possibility of sourcing new ships designed and built in China, along with the possibility of acquiring existing vessels.

The two organisations also plan to work together to develop turnaround and transit ports within and around China, starting a port being developed by CMG called Prince Bay Cruise Terminal in Shekou in Shenzhen. The partners would work to have cruise ships sail from the new port, while also developing other cruise ship destinations across China and northern Asia.

Carnival Corporation claims to be market leader in China with its Costa and Princess brands and will be the first cruise company with four homeported ships in the country this year.

Strong growth is expected to continue, including the 500,000 passengers Carnival Corporation expects to carry in 2015.

The US company’s chief operations officer Alan Buckelew said: “The MOU we signed today signifies a great opportunity to take the next step in the future of Chinese cruising, while addressing some key needs for both the cruise industry and its passengers in China.

“With CMG’s amazing track record, reach and influence in the market, we are working with a strategic partner that can help us explore immediate ways to impact cruise growth in China, including the possibility of a new Chinese cruise brand and new destinations.”