Mitsubishi Shipbuilding has conducted a christening and launch ceremony for the first of two large liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered ferries that are being constructed for Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL).

The ceremony for Sunflower Kurenai took place at MHI’s Shimonoseki Shipyard & Machinery Works in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.

The ship is slated for delivery in December, following the completion of interior work and sea trials.

Starting from January 2023, Sunflower Kurenai will serve on the Osaka-Beppu Route, replacing the Sunflower Ivory and Sunflower Cobalt ferries that have been operating since 1997.

With a length of 199.9m and width of 28m, Sunflower Kurenai will be operated by Oita-based Ferry Sunflower.

This ferry will be able to carry 716 passengers and 100 passenger cars at a speed of 22.5 knots.

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With a gross tonnage of approximately 17,300, Sunflower Kurenai is equipped with a dual-fuel engine that can use LNG as well as A-type heavy oil.

In a statement, Mitsubishi said: “It offers outstanding environmental performance, achieving a 20% reduction in CO₂ emissions and close to zero emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), thereby mitigating environmental impact.”

In comparison with previous ferries, Sunflower Kurenai has a greater loading capacity for trucks, as well as a more spacious lounge for truck drivers.

It features expansive public areas, such as enlarged bathing facilities, a spacious restaurant and an atrium extending through three stories, providing more space for each passenger.

Plans to build Sunflower Kurenai were announced by MOL and its group company Ferry Sunflower in 2019.