Italy-based shipbuilding firm Fincantieri has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with MSC Group’s Cruise Division, the luxury travel brand Explora Journeys, to construct a further two hydrogen-fuelled cruise ships.

The latest order will increase Explora Journeys’ total fleet count from four to six vessels and take the firm’s total investment in the fleet to €3.5bn.

This covers an additional €120m for fitting the EXPLORA III and IV vessels with liquefied natural gas (LNG) engines.

EXPLORA V and VI will also be installed with new generation LNG engines to address the issue of methane slip.

The vessels will feature environmental technologies and solutions, including a containment system for liquid hydrogen that will facilitate its use as a low-carbon fuel.

A 6MW fuel cell driven by hydrogen fuel will be used to generate emissions-free power for the hotel operations. With the engines turned off, it will enable the vessels to operate on ‘zero emissions’ in port.

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These two new cruise ships are expected to be operational in 2027 and 2028, respectively.

Meanwhile, the EXPLORA III and IV vessels will be enlarged by 19m to install a new generation system based on LNG and hydrogen.

MSC Group Cruise Division executive-chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said: “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.”

In May, Fincantieri floated out the first cruise ship, called Explora I, for Explora Journeys.