HONG KONG – Carnival Corp., the world’s No. 1 cruise company, said Wednesday it’s exploring the possibility of a ship building joint venture with a state-owned Chinese company and Italy’s Fincantieri.
Carnival said the joint venture could accelerate development of China’s cruise industry which is forecast by China’s transport ministry to grow to 4.5 million passengers by 2020.
A statement from the company said the possible joint venture with the Italian shipbuilder and China State Shipbuilding Corp. could result in the first world-class cruise ship to be built in China.
Cruise operators have traditionally sent older vessels to developing countries while saving their most advanced ships for U.S. and European customers.
But surging growth in China, which is the world’s second-biggest economy after the United States, means it’s a market operators can no longer ignore.
“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,” Carnival said.
If a final agreement for the venture is reached, Carnival Corporation would use its experience in ship design and shipbuilding to create the overall specifications for a China-built cruise ship.
Carnival became the first global cruise operator to have four ships based in China when it deployed its Costa Serena to Shanghai in April.
The Asian Cruise Association estimated last year that the overall Asian cruise market, which totalled 1.3 million passengers in 2012, could nearly triple to 3.8 million in 2020, including 1.6 million from China.
Carnival is even more optimistic, predicting the number will grow to 7 million by 2020 or about a fifth of the global market.