Japanese shipowner Mitsui OSK Lines plans to home in on the growth of its new cruise business in 2024 while also upping its targets for zero-emission vessels.

In his New Year message on 4 January, MOL president and chief executive Takeshi Hashimoto told employees the company will focus on one item among its growth initiatives.

He named the company’s 32,000-gt cruise ship Mitsui Ocean Fuji (ex-Seabourn Odyssey, built 2009) which it bought in 2023 and will go into service in December 2024.

“We are pursuing aggressive investment in the cruise business, and the future of this business depends on the success of the new service and brand,” he said.

Hashimoto also said MOL will aim to be on track to achieve zero-emissions vessels “at an earlier stage”. “We intend to lead the industry in technological innovation,” he said.

Today, MOL announced it has signed a time charter for its 34,500-cbm ammonia carrier Green Pioneer (built 2010) with Yara Clean Ammonia Switzerland. The vessel is expected to be deployed in the Pacific region.

MOL said the deal is a result of a memorandum of understanding on decarbonisation projects it signed with Yara Group in 2022.

Hashimoto said that although the business environment for 2023 remained unstable, MOL Group’s financial results are expected to “exceed our initial projections”. He said this is due to the continued strong market for chemical tankers and car carriers and the benefits of a weaker yen.

MOL, which will celebrate its 140th anniversary in April, is almost one year into its Blue Action 2035 strategy. Hashimoto said the financial year from April will be a “critical year” as the company continues its reform and growth efforts.

He flagged up three key aspects for this — human capital, digital transformation and safety, revealing that MOL is unveiling a new Safety Vision this year.

The chief flagged up three serious accidents for MOL.

He said in September 2023 a seafarer died in an accident during preparation for a cargo handling operation on an MOL-operated coal carrier.

In November, there was a grounding incident involving a ferry operated by MOL Sunflower causing significant damage to the cargo and to the hull of the vessel.

Hashimoto said last month that MOL Cruises received a corrective action order from the Japanese authorities after it was found to have violated the Mariners Act on the 383-gt Nippon Maru (built 2000) by false reporting of staff’s overtime.

“This violation is an extremely serious matter, and we are thoroughly committed to preventing any recurrence,” he said, highlighting that cruise and ferry is a growth area for the company.

Hashimoto, who admitted to spending his end of year break in Singapore “to avoid winter coldness”, said he attended the COP28 meeting in Dubai in December.

“I aim to enhance the group’s presence and brand power on a global scale by participating in COP and the World Economic Forum,” he said.

Hashimoto said he wants MOL to be seen as a company that proactively addresses environmental policy and other sustainability issues, creates new business opportunities, and participates in important projects around the world.

“I want MOL to be viewed as an excellent company in every aspect. That is my goal.”