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Chinese firm becomes newest entrant in cruise business

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JINAN, March, 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese shipping firm Bohai Ferry Co. Ltd.has bought light luxury cruise ship "Costa Voyager", the first vessel as part of its international cruise business.

Yu Xinjian, general manager of Bohai Ferry, told Xinhua on Thursday that the ship will be renamed "China Taishan" after Mt. Tai in Shandong Province, when it is put into use in the second half of the year.

He said the company planned to launch a summer cruise line stopping off at ports in China, the Republic of Korea and Japan, and a winter line to southeast Asian countries.

With 24,500 gross tonnes, the luxury cruise ship is the smallest in the Costa fleet owned by the largest European cruise operator Costa Cruises. The German-built ship is 180 meters long and capable of carrying 1,000 passengers.

The main business of Bohai Ferry, which is based in Yantai City in east China's Shandong, is operating passenger ferries on routes linking Yantai with other ports including Dalian, Penglai and Lyushun along the country's northeastern coast.

The Shanghai-listed company set up a subsidiary in Hong Kong last year, with the aim of tapping into the international cruise market. It also has a tourist agency in Shandong's Qingdao City.

Yu said the company plans to buy more luxury cruise ships and have a fleet, once it gains more experience in this field.

China's cruise travel market is forecast to become the largest in Asia by 2020, when it will see 4.5 million passenger journeys a year, up 33 percent from 2013, according to a report on the cruise liner shipping market earlier this month.

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