STX were responsible for such legendary ships as the France, seen here as the SS. Norway

STX were responsible for such legendary ships as the France, seen here as the SS. Norway

In what can only be described as a ‘back to the future’ move, a new start up company is finalising ambitious plans to construct a pair of 70,000 ton ocean liners, with the avowed intention of running the ships on month long liner style voyages from Britain to Australia and back.

Codenamed Project Orient, and working with the experienced STX Saint Nazaire shipyard in France, the two sisters are the brainchild of a group of British businessmen, said to have extensive experience of the cruise industry. Director of sales and planning is the experienced and well respected Nigel Lingard, who fulfilled a similar role with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines for many years.

First artist’s renderings reveal a design with a long, flaring hull and a traditional curved prow. A single, centrally sited funnel gives the design a profile not unlike the Marco Polo on steroids. Initial figures call for a passenger capacity of 1,600 on each ship, looked after by a crew of 800 Each should be capable of making the voyage from Britain to Australia in just under a month.

It is envisaged that the two ships will operate via the Far East, as well as South Africa. Sector voyages will be offered, with the option of allowing passengers to tie in one way airfare.

Each of the two ships is conservatively costed at around $450 million, and the operation is now actively sourcing the finance to get the project moving.

Nothing like this has been seen since the demise of the joint P&O/Orient Lines service operated by Canberra and Oriana through until the mid- 1970’s. The new ships can take advantage of far greater fuel and technical efficiencies than their predecessors ever could, and also have the additional advantage of being able to configure these entirely new designs to modern tastes and styles.

Fares for the month long passage to or from Australia will be fully competitive with business class air fares and, for families migrating to or from the Antipodes, there is also the huge advantage of being able to bring all the luggage and personal effects you need.

All things considered, Project Orient is a brilliant, brave piece of bravado. Add in the technical nous and expertise of STX- the builders of such iconic ocean legends as Normandie, France and, more recently, Queen Mary 2, and you have a proven pedigree that is hard to argue with.

It’s a fascinating premise; one that I will be watching with great interest over the next few months. As details become available and the steel begins to grow around the skeleton of this remarkable ocean renaissance, I will be providing you with updates as practical.

As ever- stay tuned.

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