Construction work for the first of two liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered Costa Cruises ships has commenced at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland.

The ship has been tentatively named Costa Smeralda and will be owned by Costa Cruises’ parent company Carnival.

It is currently scheduled to enter service by October 2019.

The vessel will feature a capacity greater than 180,000t and will be equipped with more than 2,600 passenger cabins to allow it to carry roughly 6,600 passengers on-board.

The development of Costa Smeralda forms part of Carnival’s strategic plan to build seven LNG-powered ships for inclusion within its current fleet of 103 vessels.

Costa Smeralda's sister ship is expected to be delivered by Meyer Turku in 2021.

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"The two new Costa Cruises ships are a true global innovation and set new standards for the entire sector."

Costa Cruises president Neil Palomba said: “The two new Costa Cruises ships are a true global innovation and set new standards for the entire sector.

“They will be among the first cruise ships powered by LNG, spurring the development of this green technology, especially in the Mediterranean area, and they will be the world's first LNG-powered ships that will be marketed to consumers from multiple countries, including Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland.

“The new ships will also offer unique services and present a state-of-the-art interior design, serving as the perfect expression of our 'Italy's Finest' concept, which is a distinguishing feature of the Costa Cruises brand around the world for providing guests with a truly immersive Italian experience.”

Costa Smeralda will offer cruise services in the western Mediterranean region upon completion.

Shell Western LNG is expected to provide LNG bunkering for the ship as part of an agreement that was initially announced last year.