Carnival Corporation today announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) to explore the possibility of a joint venture aimed at accelerating the development and growth of the Chinese cruise industry, expected to be one of the largest cruise markets in the world with 4.5 million passengers by 2020, according to the Chinese Ministry of Transport (MOT).

Becoming official at a signing ceremony today at the Ninth China Cruise Shipping and International Cruise Expo in Tianjin, the MOU outlines the framework for exploration of a partnership between Carnival Corporation and the CSSC that includes the possibility of forming a shipbuilding joint venture that could become a three-way arrangement involving Fincantieri of Italy, the world's largest cruise ship building company, in support of the Chinese government's plans to grow the cruising industry in China and meet escalating demand for cruises from Chinese travelers.

Mobbed by Chinese media (photo: Cruise Industry News)As part of the possible shipbuilding joint venture, Carnival Corporation would work closely with CSSC and Fincantieri to help define the first-ever, world-class cruise ship built in China. Carnival Corporation, the world's leading cruise operator, has been involved in building modern cruise ships that exceed guest expectations more than any entity in the world. Under the joint venture concept, Carnival Corporation would provide its ship design and shipbuilding expertise to create the vision, definition and overall specifications for the China-built cruise ship.

"This is really a breakthrough day for all of us at Carnival, as well as our friends at the CSSC and all Chinese travelers who are increasingly turning to cruises for their vacation experiences," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. "This landmark agreement enables us to work closely with our partners at the CSSC to fully explore the possibility of forming a joint venture to further develop China into a leading cruise market, supporting local economic development and bringing vacation enjoyment to millions. We look forward to getting to work and lending the expertise of many talented people across Carnival Corporation."

In the past year, the Chinese Ministry of Transport has expressed its strong desire to transform China into a leading global cruise market, including investments in infrastructure and developing a strong domestic cruise presence to help spur growth in cruising as a key component of the expanding tourism industry in China.

The MOT projects China to be the second largest global cruise market after the U.S. in the next several years based on economic growth, increased spending power of Chinese consumers and growing demand for cruise vacations in China. Partnerships like the relationship being fully explored between CSSC and Carnival support the MOT's pro-growth cruise policies designed to spur new economic development from tourism in China.