The delivery of the country’s first large cruise vessel built to international standards is a watershed moment, class society Lloyd’s Register claimed, who classed the vessel.
Having completed sea trials, she is due to embark on her maiden cruise on 1st January, 2024.
The 5,246-pax ‘Adora Magic City’ is the first large cruise ship to be built in China and marks the beginning of the country’s development in cruise design and construction, said Marco Scopaz, LR onsite Project Manager and Marine Surveyor.
He added that the cruise vessel’s maiden voyage will mark the end of a ground breaking journey of more than four years – interrupted by Covid – at China State Shipbuilding Corp’s Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding.
Scopaz explained that its framework has changed since its original inception back in 2015. When the cruise concept was first discussed, it was known as ‘AIDA Asia’.
In a joint venture, Carnival Group and China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC) contracted Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding (part of CSSC), and once built, the ship would be operated by AIDA’s Asian operation.
The project’s design and development was led by JVPC (a joint venture between CSSC and Fincantieri) based in Shanghai. Today, this project carries the name of the ship and is a subsidiary of China’s state shipbuilding company.
The 1,292-person crew are due on board in new next few weeks to familiarise themselves with the ship between then and the end of the year. The ship’s delivery is scheduled for 15th December, followed by a shakedown cruise, to enable promotion to travel agents, attendance by principals, and further crew training.
Scopaz believed that the project was likely to prove a catalyst for two likely developments. On the one hand, affluent Chinese tourists are likely to book short four-to-five day cruises on the new vessel.
Cruises on Chinese-built ships servicing the domestic market are significantly shorter than cruise vacations elsewhere, aligning closely with holidays that are typically much shorter in China.
However, the similarities with the domestic cruise market stop there, as the ‘Adora Magic City’ is likely to mark a new beginning for the Chinese cruise sector. It will provide an unprecedented cruise experience for customers, with significantly higher outfit standards, larger cabins, more space generally, as well as international components, Fincantieri-designed cabins, etc.
The other likely development is that the relatively small number of global cruise heavyweights, accustomed to building most of the world’s cruise vessels at specialist yards in Italy, France, Germany, and Finland, are likely to watch developments in Chinese cruise construction very closely.
As in many other sectors of shipping, construction is likely to move steadily to the world’s second most populous country.
How quickly this transition will take place remains to be seen, Scopaz said. Whatever the timeframe, however, major cruise lines will be eyeing up both sides of the market in terms of demand and supply.
Although he described Chinese cruising as ‘a sleeping market’, he believed that ‘Adora Magic City’s’ maiden voyage in January will change the situation..
For LR, the project is significant. With more cruise ships in its portfolio than other class societies, it is already a leader in the field. But Scopaz believed there is vast potential in China, not only for builders and consumers, but for those engaged at every stage of the supply chain.
He explained that on this first vessel, international suppliers, notably European, have provided parts and components and support for the fitting-out process. The diesel-electric propulsion is based on five ABB diesel generators, for example, arranged in two engine rooms driving two Azipod XO 2100 units, also supplied by ABB.
Each pod directly drives a speed-controlled fixed-pitch propeller that can be rotated through 360 deg around its vertical axis. Power is supplied by the ship’s network utilisng transformers.
Other features of the vessel, such as fire-fighting systems and life-saving appliances, have also been provided by international suppliers. Its 20 lifeboats, with capacity for 314 persons each, have been supplied by Fassmer; its two marine evacuation systems each with two 153-person inflatable life rafts, by Viking.
However, China now has the opportunity to build its own supply chain, with engineering firms, equipment providers, and service companies, including designers and interior decoration specialists located close to the construction facilities. Not only will the equipment and services command lower prices, but they will also be available locally, saving time and money.
Unlike commercial shipbuilding, Scopaz pointed out, there is little serial production in the cruise sector. Therefore high-tech products are often unique and require deep sector knowledge.
As a result, a partner with global sector experience is essential. Class, he said, will play a key role in supporting these initiatives, including R&D into new cruise fuels and other sustainability initiatives.
Class will provide oversight, not only in the design and build process, it will also support companies embarking on the manufacture and supply of components and products for the sector, as well as the training of their personnel, and the implementation and review of documents and standards.
For Scopaz, then, the end of a four-year commitment is looming What now? “I want to remain in Asia with my eyes open to China, Of course, they want to develop something else because the shipyard has acquired so much knowledge during the project. If they don’t continue, that knowledge would be lost and I don’t think that will happen,” he said.
Paul Nichols, Principal Specialist in LR’s Passenger Ship Support Centre, recently spent a week on board the vessel, and was involved in the early discussions regarding the contract with CSSC.
He believed no new project is made in isolation and the success of the ‘Adora Magic City’ construction is a testament to the support of many participants.
“LR has been working on this project for many years in offices in both Asia and Europe. With the original Carnival design built in Italy, the technical support office work involved both our Trieste and Shanghai offices to ensure the consistency in interpretation and application of LR services.
“In most meetings with the yard, it has often been mentioned that the support from the LR team has been significant and is greatly appreciated,” he said.
Nichols will be discussing the project on the LR stand (N2D4A) at Marintec China in Shanghai next week.