They are set to enter service in 2027 and 2028.
The addition of ships V and VI brings the total number of vessels in the Explora fleet to six. They will run on LNG but hydrogen will power a fuel cell to produce emission-free electricity for hotel needs for zero emissions when in port.
Explora III and IV being enlarged/delayed for LNG
As well, both Explora III and IV are being enlarged by 19 metres to enable the installation of a new generation system based on LNG and hydrogen. This means a temporary halt of work due to the significant redesign of the ships. They will now be delivered in 2026 and 2027.
The change also serves as an opportunity to enhance the variety of suites with an increased number of Ocean Residences and larger public spaces.
Explained Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Group which owns the luxury Explora brand, ‘Explora Journeys is building ships for tomorrow, utilising today’s latest technologies and being ready to adapt to alternative energy solutions as they become available.
‘The announcement today marks another significant step forward in our goal as a business to reach net zero emissions by 2050 across all our cruise operations for the two brands, and a further proof of our commitment to invest in the most advanced marine environmental technologies available to develop sustainable solutions for the future.’
He continued, ‘This transition to zero emissions operations for the maritime industry is the biggest challenge that we will ever face, and this will only be achieved by everyone playing their part – by investing in research and development and through significant investment both by companies but also governments.’
Tackling methane slip
Explora V and VI will feature a new generation of LNG engines that will tackle the issue of methane slip and be equipped with environmental technologies and solutions – including a containment system for liquid hydrogen – allowing the line to use the low-carbon fuel.
Hydrogen fuel will power a six-megawatt fuel cell to produce emission-free power for the hotel operation and allow the vessels to run on zero emissions in port, with the engines turned off.
It is hoped by the cruise line that the increasing availability of bio and synthetic forms of LNG will enable the energy source to provide a pathway toward decarbonisation in the future.
The two additional ships covered under the MOA brings Explora’s investment in its fleet to €3.5b. This includes the additional €120m each for fitting Explora III and IV with LNG engines.
Michael Ungerer, CEO, Explora Journeys described as ‘bold’ the line amending its construction plans, making significant additional investment in current orders and introducing two more vessels with new technology. He said, ‘This also demonstrates unequivocally our absolute commitment to operate ships that will appeal and attract the next and future generations of luxury travellers. Sustainability is the new craftsmanship and we’re honoured to take a pioneering position within the industry and the wider travel sector.’
Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero pointed out the importance of sustainability and the shipyard’s strong ties with MSC Cruises. ‘This is the very first major agreement for new construction after the pandemic emergency and testifies not only to the further growth of our long-standing partnership with MSC, which we thank, but also the confidence of both groups in the future of the cruise industry.
‘These ships will allow us to implement cutting-edge technologies aimed at significantly improving environmental performance, laying the foundations for further developments. We are convinced that sustainability is a key factor to ensure our growth in the medium and long term.'