China Cruise Shipbuilding Plans Face Challenges

Zhaoben Zhang

The quest to build megaships in China will be met with a variety of challenges, according to industry experts, speaking at China Cruise Shipping 13 in Shenzhen.

“By 2023, the first luxury cruise vessel will be delivered (from a Chinese yard), and before that, we will have two secondhand vessels,” said Zhaoben Zhang, executive president of the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association.

Zhang was referring to China State Shipbuilding Corporation’s plans to acquire two 85,000-ton 2,800-guest ships that will join a domestic fleet in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Zhang said China Merchants Group is also considering a plan to acquire and operate secondhand cruise ships.

“We have found manufacturing a cruise vessel (in China) will be challenging,” he added. “We’re not worried about the technology, we are most worried about the cultural and management differences as well as other legal issues.”

Raoul Jack, regional general manager for Bureau Veritas, said that many projects were looking to build new cruise ships in China.  

“Everyone was thinking about it or talking about in 2011 or 2012,” he said, “it’s clear that China is now involved in cruise ship building.”

“The question to ask is do you know what you do not know?” added Hans Eivind Siewers, segment director for passenger ships globally, DNV GL.

“Building a cruise ship is extremely complex with completely different challenges compared to building merchant ships,” he said

Before a luxury megaship is delivered from China State Shipbuilding Corporation, expedition vessels will come first, with SunStone set to debut the first of up to 10 built-in-China vessels in 2019 from China Merchants Heavy Industries.

Among the challenges are weight control, the polar code, safe return to port, change orders, quality control and more.

“Cruise ship projects are high value with high financial risk,” Siewers added.

Ronin Zong, a partner at Wikborg Rein in Shanghai, said that the design capacity, project management capacity and the entire supply chain in China is still coming together.

“All these have posed new challenges for Chinese shipyards,” he said. “Design and spec requirements are very different from other shipbuilding segments.”

“The under estimation of complexity in coordination has historically been a major contributor to cost and schedule overruns,” said Zong, suggesting that yards may want to first look at refits and drydocks to get their feet wet in the cruise market.

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