Consumer demand to explore the world’s remote locations by cruise ship is growing at an exciting pace. Exploration cruise vessel construction is booming as cruise lines seek to meet this need with technologically advanced, environmentally sensitive and highly customised ships for polar and tropical itineraries.
Specialist shipbuilders, feeling the effects of a declining oil and gas industry, are moving quickly to fill this niche. European yards are dominating the market just now, with Norway clearly the strongest contributor. Other global players are showing an interest in this sector, in particular the Chinese.
VARD, a Norwegian subsidiary of cruise ship construction giant Fincantieri, has orders from French luxury cruise company Ponant and TUI/Hapag- Lloyd Cruises for polar-class vessels. Australian Coral Expeditions have also instructed VARD to build their new expedition vessel intended to tackle the Great Barrier Reef, Kimberley region, Cape York and Arnhem Land, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, South Pacific Islands, Tasmania and south east Asia.
Again in Norway, Ulstein won the new Lindblad contracts and the Kleven shipyard has the latest Hurtigruten vessels underway. Other European yards are enjoying success securing new builds too, such as the Netherlands-based De Hoop – who won the contract to build Celebrity Cruise’s Celebrity Flora despite never having built an ocean cruise liner before. This vessel is destined for the popular Galapagos Islands.
Some features of these new vessels include zero-speed stabilisers to allow the ship to remain in a stationary position without dropping anchor on a sensitive sea bed, LNG and Hydrogen fuel cell ready systems, expanded fuel and water tanks to provide for longer endurance ranges in remote areas, helicopter landing platforms, submarine vehicles and Zodiac launches.
Luxury expedition yachts for small groups are also part of this growth trend, with the Dutch Damen yard and yacht builder AMELS collaborating on an IMO Polar Code compliant SeaXplorer designed for only 12 guests and 25 crew.
Photos courtesy of Hurtigruten, Ulstein, Damen and Ponant