A cruise ship leaves Shanghai for South Korea.
Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co Ltd will start the construction of the nation's first self-made cruise liner in 2019 after completing a year-long overhaul of a shipyard.
The Shanghai-based shipbuilder aims to produce three to four cruise ships annually, according to its chief technical officer.
"All-around preparatory work will kick off next year. As the cruise shipbuilding is so much different from the cargo ships or container ships that we've built before, we have to transform our factory and convert the production flow," said Tao Ying, chief technical officer of Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co Ltd.
The cruise construction program is a combination of manufacturing and art, as the ship is a floating Las Vegas on the sea, which is even more difficult than developing an aircraft carrier, said He Qixing, manager of the cruise department at SWS.
SWS, a wholly owned company of the China State Shipbuilding Corp, is eager to transform itself from a traditional shipbuilder into a cruise ship building center comparable to market leaders such as Italy-based Fincantieri SpA and Germany's Meyer Werft.
SWS looks to have an annual capacity of up to four cruise ships in the future.
China's cruise passenger numbers rose to 2.1 million in 2016, taking third position in global passenger rankings for the year, according to data from the Cruise Lines International Association.
China is the fastest growing market, and is projected to have 10 million cruise passengers by 2026, said He.
But the rising demand for cruise tours can hardly be met because annual cruise output of the top three shipyards in Europe is between seven and eight, while global demand for new cruise vessels is averaged at 12.
The first home-grown cruise ship has a length of 323.6 meters and a width of 37.2 meters, and it can hold nearly 5,000 passengers at maximum with 2,000 cabins. It is expected to be delivered in 2023, followed by a rate of one vessel per year from 2024 to 2028.