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Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise operator, signed a memorandum of understanding with China Merchants Group to explore the creation China’s first domestic line.

The companies also will collaborate on port development in and near China that would facilitate cruises, Carnival said today in a statement. China Merchants, which dates back to 1872, is building the Prince Bay Cruise Terminal in Shekou.

Cruise line operators are rushing to China, considered the biggest growth market for the industry. Miami-based Carnival expects to run four ships carrying 500,000 passengers annually in the region this year, more than doubling capacity since 2013.

“The MOU we signed today signifies a great opportunity to take the next step in the future of Chinese cruising, while addressing some key needs for both the cruise industry and its passengers,” Alan Buckelew, chief operating officer of Carnival, said in the statement.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the world’s second-largest cruise operator, has also added ships to the market, including its new Quantum of the Seas, which begins sailing from Shanghai later this year.

Carnival signed agreements last year with China State Shipbuilding Corp. and the Italian shipyard Fincantieri SpA to explore construction of vessels for the Chinese market.

This article was written by Christopher Palmeri from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Photo Credit: Costa Atlantica is one of four ships Carnival has based in China. Trondheim Havn / Flickr