Maiden Voyage of World’s Largest Cruise Ship Raises Concerns over Methane Emissions

Icon of the Seas' Maiden Voyage Raises Concerns Over Methane Emissions | CIO Women Magazine

Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, is all set for its inaugural journey from Miami this Saturday, boasting a capacity for a whopping 8,000 passengers across 20 decks. Royal Caribbean International (RCL.N) is at the helm of this colossal vessel, tapping into the booming popularity of cruises. However, as the excitement builds for this groundbreaking voyage, environmental groups are raising alarms about potential environmental risks associated with the ship’s use of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Environmental Concerns Surrounding LNG-Powered Cruises

While LNG is considered a cleaner alternative to traditional marine fuels, such as very low sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO), concerns linger regarding the release of harmful methane into the atmosphere. Critics argue that the LNG-powered ship and its counterparts could pose an unacceptable risk to the climate due to methane emissions. Methane, which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, has short-term harmful effects, making it a focal point for environmental advocacy.

Bryan Comer, the director of the Marine Program at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), emphasizes the perceived misstep, stating that LNG as a marine fuel emits over 120% more life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than marine gas oil. Cruise ships, including Icon of the Seas, use low-pressure, dual-fuel engines that release methane into the atmosphere during the combustion process, a phenomenon known as “methane slip.” Industry experts suggest that finding alternative engines that emit less methane without compromising ship design is a challenge yet to be addressed.

Navigating the Challenges of Methane Emissions

Royal Caribbean defends its position, asserting that the new ship exceeds the carbon emission efficiency required by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) by 24%. The cruise line industry, which anticipates 63% of the 54 ships ordered between 2024 and 2028 to be powered by LNG, faces growing scrutiny over methane emissions. The industry has an average estimated methane slip of 6.4%, surpassing the IMO’s assumption of 3.5%. Stakeholders, including environmental organizations and industry advocates, are closely monitoring these developments.

Nick Rose, Royal Caribbean’s vice president of environmental, social, and governance, assures the public that LNG is just one aspect of the company’s broader environmental strategy. As the market evolves, the cruise line plans to explore and adopt different fuels, including alternatives like bio-LNG. The cruise industry, at this crossroads, aims to strike a balance between meeting the rising demand for cruising and addressing the environmental impact of its vessels. The maiden voyage of Icon of the Seas, while a landmark moment, underscores the need for ongoing dialogue and innovation to ensure a sustainable future for maritime travel.

Also read: Google Announces Significant Workforce Reductions across Divisions

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