MSC Group’s luxury travel brand, Explora Journeys, and shipbuilding group Fincantieri announced today that they have signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the construction of two of the world’s first luxury cruise ships to utilize hydrogen-based power.

The new EXPLORA V and VI cruise ships will feature liquefied natural gas (LNG) engines that will address the methane slip issue and will use industry-first environmental technologies, such as a containment system for liquid hydrogen that will enable them to use this fuel.

Hydrogen fuel will power a 6 MW fuel cell to produce emissions-free power for the hotel operation and will allow the vessels to operate on zero emissions in port, with the engines turned off.

LNG is currently the cleanest marine fuel available at scale and it nearly eliminates local air pollutant emissions like sulphur oxides by 99%, nitrogen oxides by 85%, and particles by 98%. LNG also plays an important role in climate change mitigation, with the engines potentially reducing CO2 emissions by up to 25% compared to standard marine fuels.

Pierroberto Folgiero, Chief Executive Officer of Fincantieri, commented:

“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, which we thank, 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”

The addition of cruise ships V and VI brings the total number of ships in Explora Journey’s fleet to six. The company’s previously announced vessels EXPLORA III and IV will also be powered by LNG. The two ships will be enlarged by 19 meters to enable the installation of a new generation system based on LNG and hydrogen.

Michael Ungerer, Chief Executive Officer, Explora Journeys, added,

“These bold moves to amend our construction plans, make significant additional investment in current orders and confirm orders for two more vessels with new technology despite the economic environment are 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.”

All six ships in the Explora Journeys’ fleet will feature a selective catalytic reduction technology to allow for a reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions by 90%, will be equipped with shore power-plug connectivity to reduce emissions in port, and fitted with underwater noise management systems to help protect marine life. In addition, all six vessels will have onboard energy efficiency equipment to optimize engine use to further cut emissions.

The two new cruise ships are expected to come into service in 2027 and 2028, respectively.

Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of MSC Group, said,

“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. This transition to zero emissions operations for the maritime industry is the biggest challenge that we will ever face, and this will only be achieved by everyone playing their part – by investing in research and development and through significant investment both by companies but also governments.”

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