China To Build Their First Major Cruise Ship

China To Build Their First Major Cruise Ship


Shawn J. Dake

China is poised to enter the world of cruising in a big way with reports of construction beginning on the first significant cruise ship to be built in that nation. The China Daily website reports that construction began on July 25, 2012 on a 100,000 gross ton luxury ship, at the Xiamen Shipbuilding Industry Co. Ltd., located in Xiamen, Fujian province, China. The ship, which will carry over 2,000 passengers, is being built at a cost of 3.1 billion yuan which is roughly US $485 million. The building period is projected to take six years, with delivery slated for October, 2018. With the shipyard having no previous experience in constructing a passenger ship, it is probably a wise idea to announce a protracted building schedule to allow for delays and possible setbacks in what surely will be a steep learning curve for the country and the builders.

Based on differing sources the ship will be named either CHINA XIAMEN or XIAMEN CHINA. The operating company is the Xiamen International Cruise Co. Ltd. which is a subsidiary of the Beijing-based Shan Hai Shu Group. By design, the ship is intended for Chinese cruise passengers. There will be eight Chinese restaurants with only one western-style restaurant. The interior decor will feature traditional Chinese paintings and artworks with examples of antique furniture. Current plans call for the new ship to operate on Asia-centric cruises of varying lengths visiting ports in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and Taiwan. The ship is one part of a larger project designed to extensively promote Xiamen as a future cruise hub. The Southeast China International Shipping Center package includes 10 projects led by the local construction of the large cruise liner, a cruise terminal with a massive shopping and entertainment complex and a shipping business center in the city of Xiamen, local officials said. The combined investment is expected to top 16.73 billion yuan or US $2.63 billion. Xiamen is located in one of China’s five special economic zones open to foreign investment and was until recently known as a city of export-oriented factories, however in recent years, tourism has taken off and made the city a top leisure destination. The Port Of Xiamen currently has 81 berths which can handle vessels of all sizes, including 16 deep-water berths. Xiamen is the world’s largest supply base of raw tungsten materials and interestingly is also the largest manufacturer and exporter of sunglasses in the world, producing 120 million pair each year.

Some very important names in the shipping world will be working with the Chinese to develop this new ship. Most notably, PFJ Marine Consulting, Ltd., the firm headed by Stephen Payne O.B.E. has been contracted “to design the interior in line with five-star standards.” Mr. Payne is best known as the designer of the QUEEN MARY 2, the ROTTERDAM (vi) and has worked extensively in the past with Carnival Corporation Shipbuilding. His partners are Jeff Frier who had a hand in the NORWEGIAN EPIC and Raoul Jack who was Carnival’s Director of Newbuilds during the construction of the latest superb trio of ships for Seabourn Cruise Line. Also onboard is the firm of Deltamarin, the Finnish group that contributed to Royal Caribbean’s most recent pair of giants, OASIS OF THE SEAS and ALLURE OF THE SEAS, along with Celebrity Cruises 122,00 gross ton “Solstice Class.” In previous months it was widely reported that Royal Caribbean International would be involved in various aspects of the Chinese shipbuilding project. After indicating that they would at least be acting as consultants, in August Royal Caribbean denied that they had any involvement with either the Chinese government or the Xiamen cruise projects. Royal Caribbean had planned to charter the 69,130 gross ton, 1,804 passenger LEGEND OF THE SEAS for a four-month period beginning in March to a new joint venture partner China World Cruises but the deal fell through when the charter terms were not met. It is not known if this event contributed to souring any deal with the Chinese regarding the new ship.

LEGEND OF THE SEAS at San Diego, March 27, 1999, photo © Shawn Dake

Royal Caribbean is rapidly becoming a major player in the Asian cruise market. VOYAGER OF THE SEAS is now the largest ship to be based seasonally in China. The 137,276 gross ton, 3,117 passenger vessel sailed from Shanghai this year. In June, 2013 sister ship MARINER OF THE SEAS will become the second very large ship to reposition to China. China has a massive middle class which is just beginning to emerge to form an almost completely untapped travel market potential of 56 million persons. If trends continue, it will be the fourth largest source of cruise passengers by 2020. It already is a very significant contributor to Royal Caribbean’s revenue.

A couple of other small cruise operators in China were announced earlier this year. Hong Kong based Runfeng Ocean Deluxe Cruises Limited, recently began operations with the 17,370 gross ton OCEAN DREAM (ex SPIRIT OF LONDON, SUN PRINCESS, STARSHIP MAJESTIC, SOUTHERN CROSS, FLAMENCO, NEW FLAMENCO, FLAMENCO 1). The ship is registered in Sierra Leone, of all places, and sports a dragon painted on her bows, but is otherwise little altered externally from her original 1972 appearance as a P&O ship. Also new is the China Cruise Company, Limited, which purchased and renamed the CHINA STAR (ex RADISSON DIAMOND, OMAR STAR, ASIA STAR) for $45 million. The first SWATH design for a large passenger ship when built in 1992, the 20,295 gross ton vessel has been used primarily for gambling cruises out of Hong Kong in recent years and still caters to the high-roller gamblers from mainland China. It is the Chinese mainland’s first luxury cruise ship and if successful, the line plans a fleet of four or five ships to operate in the Asian market. Still the biggest news out of the Far East is the ambitious plans for the construction of the first large 100,000 ton luxury ship to be constructed by the Chinese for the Chinese.

For details on all of the latest new ships on order please see the recently revised Future Ships section of Maritime Matters.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake

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