MOL Mitsui Ocean Cruises

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MOL Mitsui Ocean Cruises fleet

Review of MOL Mitsui Ocean Cruises

Mitsui Ocean Cruises is a new travel brand (2023-established) managed by MOL Cruises Ltd. The company is a fully owned subsidiary company part of the Japanese shipping corporation Mitsui Group (Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd) and under MOL's subsidiary Mitsui OSK Passenger Co Ltd.

Mitsui Group entered the cruise shipping industry's premium market in March 2023 with the acquisition of Seabourn Odyssey (2009-built) from Seabourn Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd (subsidiary of Carnival Corporation) on March 17th. MOL announced that two new cruise ships would be ordered in November, with the first one slated for delivery in 2027.

Until 2023, MOL had only one cruiser - the 1990-built Nippon Maru, in addition to several of Japan's newest cruiseferries.

The cruising experience is marked by stylish luxury, Omotenashi service (defined as wholehearted hospitality/selfless service), spacious staterooms, authentic Japanese food and beverages, modern wellness facilities, and contemporary hotel amenities.

Company History

The Japanese shipowner MOL/Mitsui OSK Lines (1964-founded) is one of the world's largest container shipping companies. The company is headquartered in Minato City/Tokyo. MOL itself is part of Mitsui Group (interlocking companies in Japan).

MOL was established as a merger of two Japanese shipping companies - OSK/Osaka Shosen Kaisha (1884-founded) and Mitsui Bussan Kaisha/Mitsui Line (1876-founded as Mitsui Steamship Co Ltd).

Following the merger (in 1964) MOL became Japan's largest shipping company, with capital and assets of JPY 13.1 billion, a fleet of 83 ships and a total DWT/deadweight tonnage 1,237 million tons. The merger significantly improved the company's container shipping business. In 1968, MOL was recapitalized at JPY 20 billion, in 1972 - JPY 30 billion. In 1974, MOL owned 152 ships (fleet DWT ~6,6 million tons) and operated under charter additional 291 ships (total DWT ~10 million tons).

MOL Mitsui OSK Lines logo (CruiseMapper)

MOL's first container ship (America Maru) started operations on the Japan-USA route Kobe-San Francisco in 1969. Via partnerships with other Japanese shipping corporations, in the following years were opened routes linking Japan with ports in Australia and Europe. The Panama Canal transit route to East Coast USA (NYC New York) and Europe/Mediterranean was opened in 1972.

MOL's first Ro-Ro ship (car carrier) was Oppama Maru (1965-launched) started operations in 1970 exporting to the USA vehicles produced by Nissan, and in 1973 started to carry Honda cars. Today, MOL's Ro-Ro division (Auto Car Carrier Express) specializes in shipping and distribution of new and second-hand vehicles - automobiles, trucks, trailers, and other wheeled cargo/rolling freight (including heavy machinery).

MOL's passenger shipping business was established in 1970 with the subsidiary Mitsui OSK Passenger Co Ltd and three ships. MOL's first cruiser was Fuji Maru (IMO 8700474, 1968-built/2021-scrapped at Gadani Pakistan).

MOL's gas shipping operations started in 1983 with LNG (liquefied natural gas) imported from Indonesia and 7 newbuild gas carriers. Kohzan Maru (1983-built) became Japan's largest gas carrier and imported methanol from Saudi Arabia.

Since 2019, MOL fully owns Euro Marine Logistics NV (2011-founded, Brussels Belgium-based shipping and logistics company). Currently, EML owns 15 ships and serves 6 routes linking 27 ports in 17 European countries.

MOL's current fleet includes container ships, general cargo ships (bulk carriers, LNG carriers, oil tankers), Ro-Ro ships (vehicle carriers), Ro-Pax ships (passenger ferries) and cruise ships. The corporation's assets also include container terminals.

MOL FERRIES Ltd - Japan's largest (by fleet and capacity) Ro-Pax shipping company, is also fully owned by Mitsui Group. The company is a merger (2023) of two MOL-owned subsidiaries - Ferry Sunflower Ltd (2009-founded, Oita City-headquartered) and MOL Ferry Co Ltd (1969-founded as Nippon Enkai Ferry, Tokyo-headquartered).

Mitsui Group's passenger shipping (cruise and ferry) operations are managed by its subsidiary MOL Cruises Ltd part of Mitsui OSK Passenger Line Ltd (MOPAS) led by Yusuke Ueno (President). Mitsui Ocean Cruises' President is Tsunemichi Mukai. He also serves as MOL America Inc's VP.

In November 2022, Takeshi Hashimoto (MOL's President and CEO) announced that the company is considering an investment of USD 720 million (~JPY 98 billion) in two new cruise vessels of a medium-size class (volume ~35000 GT tons). The ships will be Japan-flagged and designed with max passenger capacity of ~600. The order will include the option of two more units of the same class/sisterships should the first two emerge successful.

Mitsui Group's plan to expand its cruise shipping business is based on the sector's high profitability and stability. The investment is also part of the corporation's diversification strategy to target a wider market (both domestic and international tourists) and strengthen its position in the global cruise travel industry.

Company changes 2024

In April was unveiled the brand's new logo honoring its maritime heritage.

Mitsui Ocean Cruises logo (CruiseMapper)

The three-bar motif is inspired by ocean waves.

Company changes 2023

On March 16, 2023, was announced that Carnival Corporation (as shipowner and parent company of Seabourn) had sold the 14-year-old Seabourn Odyssey to the Japanese shipping company MOL. As of 2023, MOL owned/operated only one cruiser - Nippon Maru (1990-built).

Along with the sale, Seabourn signed a time-charter arrangement with MOL that allowed the company to operate Odyssey's voyages scheduled through October 11, 2024.

In October 2024, Seabourn Odyssey will be renamed and reflagged to Japan (MMSI tba) with the port of registry to be changed to Tokyo.

On October 12, 2023, the shipowner MOL Group officially launched its new cruise brand Mitsui Ocean Cruises ("Wellbeing & Lifestyle Business") and also announced Seabourn Odyssey's new name - Mitsui Ocean Fuji.

In November 2023 is expected to be placed/signed shipbuilding order for two cruise vessels, with two more optional units.

Itinerary of MOL Mitsui Ocean Cruises

MOL's new brand MITSUI OCEAN CRUISES was officially established in October 2023 (announced on Oct 12th) and is managed by MOL Cruises Ltd (a subsidiary of Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd).

MITSUI OCEAN CRUISES will be inaugurated in December 2024 when the ship Mitsui Ocean Fuji (Seabourn Odyssey) embarks on a Maiden Voyage from homeport Yokohama. The all-suite luxury cruiser (acquired by MOL from Seabourn in March 2023) is also scheduled to embark on an Around the World Voyage in April 2025.

MOL Cruises' fleet currently includes only one vessel - the 1990-built Nippon Maru, visiting ~150 different Japanese seaports.

MOL's annual "Grand Cruise" (around Japan itinerary) has a duration of ~2 months.

Nippon Maru's "Island Cruise" itineraries visit two UNESCO sites - Ogasawara/Bonin Islands and Yakushima Island. "Fly and Cruise" itineraries also visit Hokkaido Island (Shiretoko Peninsula, Otaru/Sapporo, Rebun Island), Okinawa Island, Taiwan (Keelung).

South Asian voyages include the "Taiwan Grand Cruise" itinerary (visiting Keelung/Taipei City, Kaohsiung, Hualien) and the "Gourmet Cruise" itinerary (to Hong Kong China, Keelung and Kaohsiung).

"South Pacific Islands Cruise" itineraries are from homeport Kobe/Osaka and visit Yokohama, Guam Island (USA), Papeete (Tahiti Island, French Polynesia), Hawaii (USA).

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