MSC’s luxury brand, Explora Journeys, has agreed a deal with shipbuilding group Fincantieri to build two more hydrogen-powered ships and has also amended two existing vessel orders.
Explora V and VI will take the yet-to-launch line’s fleet to six ships and are slated to come into service in 2027 and 2028.
They will feature a containment system for liquid hydrogen that will enable them to use low-carbon fuel.
Hydrogen fuel will power a six-megawatt fuel cell to produce emissions-free power for onboard hotel operations and allow the vessels to run in port with the engines turned off.
The fifth and sixth vessels in the fleet will be “enlarged” by 19 metres to accommodate the new generation system based on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), the cleanest marine fuel available at scale, and hydrogen.
The larger vessels will have more spacious suites and bigger public spaces thanks to the extra space.
The building of the two additional ships Explora V and Explora VI will contribute to an overall investment of €3.5 billion in the line’s fleet.
The investment also includes an additional €120 million each for fitting Explora III and IV with LNG engines, a change that required a temporary halt of work due to the significant redesign of the ships, which will now be delivered in 2026 and 2027.
Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Group’s cruise division, highlighted how the transition to zero emissions operations was “the biggest challenge” the maritime industry would ever face.
He said: “Explora Journeys is building ships for tomorrow, utilising today’s latest technologies and being ready to adapt to alternative energy solutions as they become available.
“The announcement today marks another significant step forward in our goal as a business to reach net zero emissions by 2050 across all our cruise operation for the two brands and a further proof of our commitment to invest in the most advanced marine environmental technologies available to develop sustainable solutions for the future.”
Chief executive Michael Ungerer added the “bold” move to order two more ships and make amendments to existing orders was “something only a family company can do”.
“This also demonstrates unequivocally our absolute commitment to operate ships that will appeal and attract the next and future generations of luxury travellers,” he said.
Pierroberto Folgiero, Fincantieri chief executive, said: “This is the very first major agreement for new construction after the pandemic emergency and testifies not only to the further growth of our long-standing partnership with MSC, but also the confidence of both groups in the future of the cruise industry.
“These ships will allow us to implement cutting-edge technologies aimed at significantly improving environmental performance, laying the foundations for further developments.”
He added that sustainability was “a key factor” to ensure the shipbuilding firm’s future growth.
“We will continue to act with determination to be forerunners in a sector that has always seen us hold leadership positions,” he said.
“All six ships in Explora Journeys’ fleet will be equipped with the latest environmental and marine technologies.
“They will also feature the latest selective catalytic reduction technology to enable a reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions by 90%, 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.
“All six vessels will also have a comprehensive range of onboard energy efficient equipment to optimise engine use to further reduce emissions.”