Long-awaited delivery to boost German cruise market

AIDAprima leaving Nagasaki for Hamburg, after delivery by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries AIDAprima leaving Nagasaki for Hamburg, after delivery by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

An array of innovative energy-saving and enviro features is combined with a major advance in capacity and amenities in AIDA Cruises’ new ship, writes David Tinsley.

Tailored to the German-speaking market, the 125,572gt AIDAprima ranks as the largest and most sophisticated vessel in the fleet operated under the Carnival Group’s AIDA Cruises brand. Hosting a range of pioneering technological and design advances, the ship gives first form to the line’s Hyperion class, encapsulating intertwined through-life efficiency and environmental protection initiatives.

The 2013 award of the contract for AIDAprima and sister newbuild AIDAperla to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) had augured well for a pillar of the Japanese shipbuilding and engineering industry in its strategy of developing business on the international, luxury passengership market. Subsequent events in the build programme, resulting in heavy losses for the yard and a full year’s delay in the handover of the first vessel, have marred MHI’s bid to challenge Europe’s pre-eminent global position in large cruiseship construction.

In size, design and propulsion, the AIDAprima differs substantially from the line’s existing tonnage. Whereas the last four vessels in the preceding seven-ship series from Meyer Werft in Germany are of 71,300gt, with capacity for 2,500 passengers, the Hyperion generation is 75% greater in enclosed volume, as represented by gross tonnage, and has a 24% higher passenger complement, at 3,300.

While the previous Papenburg-built ships have a diesel-electric installation turning two fixed pitch propellers, AIDAprima has a higher-rated electrical power and drive system using two 14MW azimuthing podded propulsors. Hydrodynamic efficiency is enhanced by an under-hull air bubbling system, and emission control arrangements break new ground through the use of the first example of a new design of comprehensive exhaust filtration plant, and by the partial adoption of LNG-fuelled main machinery. In fact, AIDAprima ranks as the first cruise ship newbuild ordered with dual-fuel main machinery.

Rostock-based AIDA Cruises is under the aegis of Carnival’s Italian company Costa Crociere, and AIDAprima endorses that connection by flying the Italian Tricolore, with registry in Genoa. The ship left Japanese waters in mid March. Following a promotional four-day return cruise out of Hamburg to Southampton on April 25, she was expected to commence her regular, seven-day cruise itinerary, based on Hamburg, on April 30. “We are once again charting new territory by being the first German cruise line to offer cruises starting from Germany the whole year round,” stated Felix Eichhorn, AIDA Cruises’ president.

The 2013 decision by Carnival Corporation to take the contract to Japan dealt a body blow to the European shipbuilding industry, and followed the progressive development of the AIDA fleet through reliance on construction in Germany.

An innovator in various fields of marine design, engineering and production, MHI already had a number of prestigious references in the cruise vessel market, as well as a long track record in building large ferries, as a foundation for the AIDA project. However, the technical complexity of the AIDAprima class, which breaks new ground in a number of spheres, the volume of interior design work, in conjunction with production difficulties plus setbacks that have included several fires, have taken a heavy toll on MHI in terms both of cost and build schedule.

Spiralling costs

The erosion of the originally planned cost structure was apparent from early on, given the provision made by the shipbuilder back in the 2013 fiscal year for an extraordinary loss of around Yen 60 billion (US$530m) on the two vessels. That figure has grown enormously over the intervening period.  

While there have been no indications that the final ‘product’ is lacking in any way as regards contractual and technological standard, her March 2016 delivery meant that she was 12 months adrift in terms of the originally specified handover date. Some recovery in schedules can be anticipated with the second ship, through lessons learnt with the first of class. However, Carnival Corporation made the decision in June 2015 to entrust the subsequent, larger generation of AIDA ships to Meyer Werft, builder of seven of the existing fleet.

Speaking at AIDAprima’s handover ceremony, MHI president and chief executive Shunichi Miyanaga Said “Given the cutting-edge nature of the ship, construction was challenging but ultimately we built a cruise ship of the very highest quality, offering superior comfort and entertainment features for passengers. It provided us with many key learnings (sic) to enable a smoother construction process for future vessels—starting with AIDAprima’s sistership.”

Notwithstanding the fulfilment of the project in Japan, European maritime industry and technology is heavily represented in AIDAprima and the sister vessel. In fact, AIDA Cruises said that around three-quarters of the suppliers to the pair of newbuilds are located in Germany or elsewhere within the EU. Among the German participation, Partner Ship Design was retained for architectural and interior design, R&M Group undertook the project planning and construction of the passenger staterooms and crew cabins, Caterpillar Motoren delivered the MaK main genset engines, Siemens was responsible for the automation, Deerberg provided its recycling and waste treatment systems, and Lufthansa Systems supplied the IT infrastructure, including the complete telephone system.

The near-vertical stem affords a compelling visual reference to the bespoke, entirely new hull design, which was developed by the owning group in collaboration with MHI and the Hamburg Shipbuilding Research Institute (HSVA). AIDAprima has the added distinction of incorporating the Mitsubishi Air Lubrication System (MALS), the first such application of the proprietary technology in the cruise vessel sector, although not the first under-hull air bubbling system to be adopted in a cruise ship.

The film of air under the hull reduces frictional resistance as the ship makes her way through the water. AIDA Cruises anticipates that the resulting reduction in propulsive power requirement for a given speed will yield fuel consumption savings of up to 7%. “It is already the case today that ships of the AIDA fleet on average consume only three litres of fuel per person on board per 100km. Thanks to MALS, we can further reduce fuel consumption to 2.8 litres,” stated the company.

The bubble carpet is produced by the MALS blower. The drive for this unit is a size 355 electric motor from the German company VEM, which provided the full spectrum of low-voltage drives for the ship. Each has been manufactured to the IE3 efficiency class rating. The VEM motors are fitted with transponders to enable machine data to be retrieved and evaluated with an RFID (radio frequency identification) reader.  

The shipowner has set a precedent in the cruise industry by specifying one of the vessel’s four main generator sets with a dual-fuel engine, allowing operation on clean-burning LNG when in harbour.

LNG auxiliary

The power plant in the AIDAprima is based on three MaK 12M43C diesel engines and a single 12M46DF dual-fuel derivative, all delivered from Caterpillar Motoren’s Rostock factory. Common to each prime mover is a maximum continuous rating of 900kW per cylinder at 500rpm, making for a combined nominal power concentration of 43,200kW. A maximum propulsive effect of 28,000kW is delivered by two model AO 2100 Azipods, while three Brunvoll FU 115 LTC 3000 tunnel thrusters in the bow provide a potent manoeuvring force.

The powering installation provided Caterpillar Motoren with its first contractual reference for the 12M46DF, which has been designed for unlimited operation on LNG, or marine diesel oil (MDO) or heavy fuel oil (HFO). In gas mode, the engine will result in low emissions, to the extent of achieving compliance with IMO type III NOx limits as well as US EPA Tier 4 regulations. Furthermore, to serve the three other main engines and also the DF model when burning LNG is not the most suitable option, the ship is fitted with an exhaust aftertreatment system of novel type by virtue of its comprehensive nature.

The result of several years’ research work by the Carnival Group, the compact solution treats NOx by means of a catalyser, removes SOx without the use of chemicals, and reduces particulate matter (PM). Regarded as a technological breakthrough for its all-in-one concept, the new filter system is claimed to cut soot particles, NOx and SOx by 90-99%, carbon monoxide (CO) by 70% and unburned hydrocarbons (HC) by 85%. Several vessels of the AIDA fleet have been retrofitted with this all-embracing exhaust treatment concept since 2014, and others will be similarly equipped as they undergo scheduled drydocking.

The AIDAprima powering concept means practically no difference in a turbocharger context whether the fuel used is diesel or LNG. “The basic challenge from the turbocharging point of view lies within the combined operation of gaseous and liquid fuels,” according to Oliver Heinrich, ABB Turbocharging’s senior manager for sales and application engineering. Each of the three MaK diesel engines and the dual-fuel engine is fitted with two TPL71-C35 turbochargers from the Swiss-based specialist.

ABB provided the complete electrical power and propulsion system for both Hyperion-class vessels under a contract worth US$60m. Besides the two Azipods, each shipset included the generators, propulsion and distribution transformers, frequency converters, bow thrusters motors, and automation and control systems.

Although AIDAprima has no LNG tank capacity, she will take a gas line during her calls in Hamburg, to feed the DF genset from  the shoreside infrastructure. The ship is also equipped for ‘cold ironing’, whereby electrical power when alongside in port can be supplied by the LNG hybrid barge Hummnel. The outcome of a joint development by AIDA Cruises and Becker Marine Systems, the Hummel generates electrical power using multiple gas engines. The various measures underscore the efforts by AIDA and the Carnival Group to spur the expansion of LNG supply facilities internationally, sending out a strong signal with regard to environmental protection.

The operating profile is wholly pertinent to the line’s investment in DF technology, as AIDA’s cruise ships, across the fleet at large, spend around 40% of their time in harbour.

Exacting process

Besides the considerable reduction in noxious gases (NOx and SOx) and the greenhouse gas CO2, use of LNG results in a ‘smokeless’ exhaust, a tangible benefit in terms of passenger appreciation and deck cleanliness.  

MHI contracted TGE Marine Gas Engineering to deliver the complete LNG fuelling system for AIDAprima and her sister newbuild. Bonn-headquartered TGE has been under Japanese control since last September, when Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding gained a majority holding.

“The use of DF technology on AIDAprima is an absolute first in the cruise industry,” counselled Jens Kohlmann, AIDA Cruises’director, yards and strategic projects. “The first installation of a liquid gas supply system and all the associated safety systems on a cruise ship was an exacting technological process. But not only that: DF technology had an all-pervading influence on the design of the ship.”

“We see great potential in the use of natural gas aboard ships as a clean-burning fuel,” added Mr Kohlmann. “In the long-term, the greatest challenge will be to create enough storage capacity aboard ship. LNG tanks take up more space than conventional liquid fuel tanks and their installation is more complicated. DF engines, with their fuel flexibility, are thus an ideal solution.”

Further development and implementation of the technical strategy is signalled by the nomination of dual-fuel machinery for all four 180,000gt cruise ships ordered last year by Carnival Corporation from Meyer Werft, two of which are destined for AIDA Cruises. This next-generation series is intended to use LNG at sea as well as in port, the first such instance within the large cruise vessel sector.

Continually raising the standards and variety of passenger facilities and services has been shown to be pivotal in growing the market, and this is clearly evident in the 18-deck AIDAprima. An outstanding feature of the interior outfit is the almost invisible, ultraviolet-permeable membrane dome extending over the area known as the Beach Club, enabling guests to enjoy a beach atmosphere irrespective of weather conditions. The inside of the dome also serves as a screen for laser shows.

Among the numerous public amenities are a three-storey multipurpose theatre in the centre of the ship’s atrium, 12 restaurants, 18 bars, shops, a 3,100m2 wellbeing area, disco, casino and micro-brewery.


Length overall


Length bp




Draught, maximum


Gross tonnage


Net tonnage








Propulsion system


Main generator engines

4 x 10,800kW

Podded main propulsors

2 x 14,000kW

Bow thrusters

3 x

Speed, maximum

21.5 knots

Speed, service

16 knots



Class notations

+100A5 Passenger ship, BWM(D2), ERS, IW, +MC AUT, EP-D, RP(3, 50%)




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