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SunStone, China group to build 4+6 expedition cruise ships in Shanghai

(Rendering: SunStone Ships)
The ships feature Ulstein's patented X-bow design
Miami-based SunStone Ships and China Merchants Industry Holdings signed a framework agreement to build four expedition ships with options for six more.

The 104-meter vessels will be constructed by China Merchants Heavy Industry (Jiangsu) Co., Ltd. near Shanghai, with the design, equipment and management supplied by Norway's Ulstein Design & Solutions.

The ships will hold 80 to 95 passenger cabins and be rated Ice Class 1A or Polar Code 6.

They will be part of the SunStone fleet and chartered to new and existing clients, according to president/ceo Niels-Erik Lund, who declined to disclose the charterers, saying that it's up to them to announce their new ships. The value of the order is not being disclosed.

The first delivery will be in August 2019, with one vessel to follow every six months after.

Ulstein has produced 100 of these patented X-bow ships, including 45 in China, where it employs 90 people.

According to Ulstein, the inverted bow is less subject to vertical motions induced by the waves, so the ship continues on course more smoothly, while maintaining its speed and using less fuel to get through the waves.

Finland's Mäkinen, one of the leading contractors of cabin and interior public spaces for cruise ships, will establish a cabin assembly plant and interior workshop at the shipyard’s facilities, and will be responsible for all interior spaces on the newbuilds.

The hotel design is by the seasoned, Florida-based design firm Tomas Tillberg Design International, which has worked with SunStone for many years.

'We are building in China but with Norwegians providing the entire equipment package and supervising the building and Finland building the interiors. So we're sure it will be first class,' Lund said.

The project was brought together by Tillberg & Reyes Group Co. Ltd., acting as broker. Carlos Reyes and Andrew Zhang developed the commercial and financial models as well as the communications and relationship with everyone involved.

The newbuilds will be 18.2 meters at the beam, with a draft of 5.1 meters. They'll be able to operate at a speed of 15 knots. The classification society is Bureau Veritas and the ships' registry will be the Bahamas.

SunStone's current fleet numbers 10 small cruise vessels on charter to companies within the expedition market, and this order positions the firm as the leading tonnage provider in the segment.

'We've been working on this [a newbuild project] for years,' Lund told Seatrade Cruise News. 'It is great to see this happening.'