(1:54 p.m. EDT) -- MSC Cruises has revealed plans to trial a ground-breaking research and development project on its first World Class ship, MSC Europa, aimed at producing electricity and heat using liquified natural gas (LNG).

Following the ship's steel cutting at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, yesterday (October 31), MSC Cruises' Executive Chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago, announced that the line has launched the project, named PACBOAT, which will focus on introducing new fuel cell technology onboard the line's first LNG-powered ship.

Currently in its development stage, the integration of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) technology onboard a cruise ship is a world first. MSC is working in partnership with Chantiers de l'Atlantique to develop the concept, which would result in a reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions which is measured in the equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) based on fuel consumption.

"The most important topic the cruise industry is facing is environmental impact," Vago said.

"We are pleased to be able to support this highly innovative project, as it further demonstrates our commitment to contributing to the development of next-generation advanced environmental technology for the benefit of the entire industry. This is a key element in our journey towards zero-emissions operations both at sea and ashore.

"With each new ship each time we will push further the boundaries of innovation in terms of environmental technology. And we will specifically focus our R&D investment into accelerating the development of next-generation advanced solutions and other technologies -- from more alternative fuels, shore power availability, batteries, fuel cells and beyond. All of this while we retrofit and upgrade our existing fleet -- one of the most modern at sea -- with the latest and best available technologies to continuously improve our environmental performance fleet-wide."

Vago also hit back at "fake news" regarding the carbon footprint of the cruise industry, saying that a week-long city or beach break was far less eco-friendly than a cruise.

Vago said a week-long cruise for a family of four on the line's newly launched flagship, MSC Grandiosa, would leave a carbon footprint of 964kg of CO2 emissions compared with 1,915kg for a holiday in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh and 1,249kg for a break in the Mallorcan capital Palma.

MSC is investing €5 billion in the construction of five LNG-powered ships, commencing with MSC Europa which will enter service in 2022. It is the first of four World Class ships being constructed at Chantiers de l'Atlantique with further deliveries scheduled for 2024, 2025 and 2027. In addition, one Meraviglia-Plus ship will also be propelled by LNG when the ship comes into service in 2023.

Billed as the cleanest marine fuel, compared to standard marine diesel LNG reduces sulphur oxide emissions by more than 99 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 85 percent. It also largely eliminates particulate matter in the ship's exhaust and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as an additional 20 percent.