Finnlines parent company Grimaldi have confirmed an order for two new large Ro-Pax ferries at China Merchants Industry Jinling (Weihai), the shipyard formerly known as AVIC Weihai. The Knud E. Hansen designed pair, dubbed the ‘Superstar’ class, will have capacity for some 5,100 lane metres of freight and 1,212 passengers. The order is a bit of a coup for the recently renamed shipyard, having fought off competition from sister-company China Merchants Jinling, fellow Chinese yard GSI, and Hyundai Mipo of Korea.
No contract price has yet been confirmed, but the 229.5m long battery-hybrid vessels are rumoured to have cost around USD 135m each. Once completed in 2023, the new ships will replace the ‘star class’ Ro-Pax’s FINNSWAN and FINNFELLOW on Finnlines Kapellskär-Långnäs-Naantali route. The order is significant as it is the first Ro-Pax order the Weihai shipyard has received from a Western customer other than Stena RoRo, despite reported enquiries from multiple shipowners.
Last month, what was still then officially known as AVIC Weihai delivered the first of nine similar ‘E-Flexer’ Ro-Pax ferries to Stena, STENA ESTRID. The latter vessel is currently making her way to Dublin for brief berthing trials before sailing to Holyhead ahead of taking up service on the Holyhead – Dublin route. Two further vessels in the series, STENA EDDA and STENA EMBLA, will be introduced on the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) route during 2020 and 2021 respectively.
The Grimaldi order cements CMJL (Weihai)’s position as a leading Ro-Pax builder for ‘the west’ with 10 confirmed orders currently on their books. Grimaldi are also believed to hold options for further vessels based on the same design, while Stena have two further options for E-Flexer class ferries at the yard which would potentially take the class to 11 units.
The Grimaldi order would appear to mean that Stena will not be able to order any further E-Flexer ferries for delivery prior to 2024, though as we reported yesterday steel cutting for the ninth vessel in the E-Flexer series (which is to be delivered in 2023) has already started. Grimaldi are also believed to be looking to build a “Super Cruise” class in the Far East to replace their “Cruise” series of vessels (CRUISE ROMA, CRUISE BARCELONA, etc), which could be another order CMJL (Weihai) will be keen to receive. Stena has also been rumoured to be considering acquiring further options for the E-Flexer series, but to-date nothing has materialised.