First Chinese-built cruise ship ready for Arctic adventures

Nov. 28 2019 - 5 min

At the forefront of China’s expanding cruise market is China Merchants Heavy Industry (CMHI), who recently delivered the first ever Chinese-built, Polar-class expedition cruise ship, part of SunStone’s order for a series of INFINITY-class vessels.

China’s cruise market continues to grow, with demand and supply hitting new highs. The number of Chinese citizens enjoying cruises is estimated to reach nearly 2 million by the end of the year, with a predicted annual increase of 20% for the coming years. In parallel, the Chinese government recently implemented several new policies to promote the development of the cruise market in China, and large state-owned companies are starting to enter the market. Chinese shipyards and shipowners are moving quickly to meet the needs of this burgeoning market, gaining the necessary expertise to build and operate mid-sized and expedition cruise vessels.

New opportunities for local yards

In recent years, China’s shipyards have ramped up production and are reinforcing their capabilities in terms of supplier and project management. Few Chinese shipyards have experience building large passenger ships; CMHI and Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding are currently the only shipyards that can absorb cruise ship orders from European owners. However, with the Chinese government keen to expand the sector, it’s only a matter of time before other yards start competing for foreign contracts.

To INFINITY and beyond

Pioneering SunStone Ships recently made a splash in the Far East with the development of their INFINITY series of Polar-code-compliant vessels, the world’s first Chinese-built expedition cruise ships. In September, the first in this series of up to 10 ships, the 104-meter Greg Mortimer, was named and delivered in a ceremony at CMHI’s Haimen base.

Built to Polar Class 6 standards, the ship offers 80 passenger cabins with private bathrooms and balconies, as well as a restaurant, lounge and 180-degree indoor observation deck. The vessel was designed by Norwegian company Ulstein Design & Solutions (UDS) together with Aurora Expeditions.

A trusted partner to develop the sector

To support CMHI’s first foray into cruise ship construction, Bureau Veritas experts provided extensive design review, including structural analysis studies and stability analysis. During vessel construction, our specialists visited the shipyard to offer support on project management and quality control to optimize choice of suppliers and help ensure timely delivery of the vessel.

SunStone chose to voluntarily meet the requirements for Safe Return to Port (SRtP) included in the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention. This is usually only applicable to ships over 120 meters long, or those with three or more main vertical fire zones. Bureau Veritas helped the yard and designers evaluate the design’s compliance with these requirements and provided extensive feedback during workshops. Experts also helped CMHI meet the challenge of creating UDS’s patented X-BOW®, a bow hull design that leads to smooth operations in harsh conditions and reduces ship motion and wave resistance.  

Thanks to a large in-country network of technical specialists and surveyors, we were able to offer in-depth design support and technical review as well as extensive help during construction. Bureau Veritas will continue to work with CMHI during the construction of at least six more INFINITY-series vessels. Additionally, we are currently working to class the first cruise ship for Chinese owners: a Chinese-flagged 38,000-GT, 600-passenger vessel that marks the next step of cruise ship construction in China.

Photo Credit: Aurora Expeditions