The traditional coin ceremony has taken place for MSC Cruises’ first liquified natural gas-powered ship, MSC World Europa.

The ceremony, which is a historical sign of blessing at the start of a ship-building process, took place at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire on Monday.

The 200,000-plus gross ton MSC World Europa is scheduled to enter service in 2022 and will be “one of most technologically- and environmentally-advanced LNG-powered cruise vessels in its class”, the line said.

Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, said: “MSC World Europa is further proof of our commitment to environmental stewardship as she is set to reduce carbon emissions even further than many other existing cruise ships powered by LNG, which is currently the most environmentally-friendly fuel for commercial maritime operations.

“With this vessel, we also reconfirm our belief in investing in advanced environmental technology to meet our long-term goal of zero emissions from operations.”

Laurent Castaing, general manager of Chantiers de l’Atlantique, added: “We are proud to start the building of a ship which will set the standards for the cruise of the future. This is a major milestone in the history of our 20-year cooperation with MSC Cruises, which has already resulted in some of the most innovative cruise ships ever built.”

MSC World Europa will feature a new 50-kilowatt demonstrator system that incorporates solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology and uses LNG to produce electricity and heat on board, the first time an LNG-powered fuel cell has been used on a cruise ship.

The line says the system will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by about 30% compared with a conventional LNG engine, with no emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides or fine particles.

MSC World Europa will also feature a new generation wastewater treatment system and other “cutting-edge environmental technology”.

MSC Cruises’ new flagship MSC Virtuosa is currently under construction in Saint-Nazaire and is due for delivery in 2020. The company also has firm orders with Chantiers de l’Atlantique for two additional LNG-powered ships, once each for the MSC World and Meraviglia classes of ships.