WORK has officially started on the next Cunard liner, which is due to set sail in 2022.

The Southampton-based cruise line and the shipbuilder Fincantieri held a ceremony in Italy to celebrate the occasion.

The as yet unnamed ship will be the 249th ship in Cunard’s 179-year history.

She will be a sister ship to Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, which Fincantieri delivered to Cunard in 2007 and 2010.

Her first section is under construction at the Castellammare di Stabia shipyard near Naples and a steel-cutting ceremony was held to mark the occasion.

Cunard president Simon Palethorpe said: “After years of planning and design, we are delighted to see building works commence on our newest ship. The 249th Cunarder will be our fourth luxury liner for the 21st century.

“The new ship is taking inspiration from the successes of our past, integrating the Cunard spirit with exciting new concepts and ideas that will provide a uniquely luxurious travel experience for our guests.”

The new ship is due to be delivered in Monfalcone, Gorizia, Italy, in 2022.

Gilberto Tobaldi, Castellammare shipyard director for Fincantieri, said: “We are very proud to be embarking on this next chapter of Cunard’s history with the start of the build of their newest ship and we look forward to working with the Cunard and Carnival UK teams over the next months.”

Cunard announced the commissioning of a sculpture crafted from the first piece of metal cut for the ship by Sam Shendi. The work will be displayed on board the ship.

The Egyptian-born British sculptor uses contemporary industrial material, steel, stainless steel, aluminium and fibreglass to create his figurative work.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to working with the Cunard team and to be given the challenge of creating a sculpture from the first piece of steel cut for their new ship is such a unique opportunity.

“It would be exciting for any artist to be part of such a long history and know that their artwork will travel the world on the ship connecting guests from all corners of the globe.”

Bookings for cruises on the new ship are due to open next year.