SunStone Ships has lined up charterers for fourfirm cruiseships it is ordering at China Merchant Industry Holdings (CMIH),says chief executive Niels-Erik Lund.
The lines that will operate the vessels will benamed once the Miami shipowner firms up the order in the next few weeks.
As TradeWinds reported last week, SunStoneforged a framework agreement for a series of 160 to 200-passenger ships fromthe China Merchants Group shipbuilding subsidiary, with delivery starting inAugust 2019.
Lund says his company, an owner of 10 shipschartered to cruise lines, is placing the pioneering order to replace oldertonnage and to meet demand growth in the market for 80 to 250-passengerexpedition vessels.
The 37 expedition cruiseships of this size rangein the global fleet have an average age of 28 years, he estimates.
“If you take those 37 ships, they all needto be replaced in the next 10 to 15 years, and in addition to that, the marketis expanding,” he said. “So it’s not only a matter of replacing tonnage, it’salso a matter of adding tonnage.”
While industry experts have expressed concernsabout the newbuilding orderbook for small cruiseships, Lund says many of thevessels on order will serve different market segments than SunStone’s vessels.
TradeWinds reported in 2012 that SunStone wasclose to ordering up to eight high ice-class cruiseships at a European yard.
Lund says that deal did not go through at thetime for a number of reasons, mainly price.
He declines to disclose the price of the orderat CMIH.
The vessels will be among the vanguard ofcruiseships built in China, where Carnival Corp recently placed the country’sfirst-ever cruiseship order.
As with Carnival’s order, experienced Europeanhands will help guide CMIH into cruise building.
Norway’s Ulstein Design & Solutions issupplying the design and equipment package and will supervise construction.
The newbuildings will be the first cruiseshipsto use Ulstein’s iconic X-bow design, which will reduce the impact of the roughwaters in which the vessels are expected to operate.
The shipbuilder has also hired Finland’s Makinento provide the interior spaces. It will build a cabin assembly plant andinteriors workshop at CMIH’s facilities.
Lund says SunStone has decided to build ships torequirements of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea(Solas) safe return to port standards, even though it is not necessary in thissize range.
The vessels will also receive the PC6 notationunder the Inter-national Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters and will havezero-speed stabilisers.
“We are really trying to build a ship thatis very comfortable for expeditions,” Lund said. “We believe this size withthese features will be the best ride for the passengers and the bestexpedition-style product.”