The first China-made polar expedition cruise ship set sail on September 8 from an industry base in Haimen, Jiangsu province. Greg Mortimer, the cruise ship’s official name, was leased to Australian cruise line Aurora Expeditions and will begin its 12-day journey from Ushuaia, Argentina to Antarctica on October 31.
Constructed by state-owned company China Merchants Group, the 104-meter-long vessel can carry 160 passengers and 95 crew members, and was delivered last week to SunStone Ships, a Miami-based deep sea passenger transportation company.
Tickets for the 12-day journey, which start at USD10,500, appear to have already been sold out, according to Aurora Expeditions’ website.
Shipbuilding is part of Beijing’s ‘Made in China 2025’ plan, a strategy to help the country catch up with world leaders in 10 key industrial sectors, including robotics, chips and new-energy vehicles. The aforementioned industrial base in Haimen, a coastal city about 150 kilometers from Shanghai, is envisioned to be a global powerhouse in cruise ship building, according to an article by South China Morning Post.
Image via SunStone Ship's website
Last September, the Ministry of Transport, along with nine other government departments, released guidelines to further development of the domestic cruise ship travel sector, highlighting a rapid rise in the number of Chinese tourists over the past decade. In 2017, a total of 2.4 million cruise trips were made in China, growing by 40% annually since 2006, according to government figures. The industry is expected to see 14 million trips taken annually by 2035.
In the meantime, polar expedition partakers are on the rise in the country as well. A 2017 report by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operations (IAATO) last year revealed that China accounted for the second most visitors – approximately 16% of passengers who traveled to Antarctica. It marks a 4% increase compared with the previous year, according to IAATO figures.
[Cover image via SunStone Ship’s website]