World’s Largest Cruise Ship Sparks Fuel Concerns
The world's largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas, recently set sail for a new voyage after undergoing a painting project from coatings company Nor-Maali Oy. The voyage reportedly began amid controversy over the environmental impact of its new liquified natural gas tanks.
According to reports, critics have said that global cruise holding company Royal Caribbean’s near-10,000-capacity ship is risking a dangerous leak of methane after it failed to include methane leakage from the new fuel system in its emissions calculations for two new tanks of liquified natural gas (LNG).
The coating of this ship reportedly marks Nor-Maali Oy’s largest single new construction project as a paint supplier.
According to a report from The Guardian, the use of methane can help to cut down on pollutants like sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and is expected to produce about 30% less carbon dioxide emissions than the heavy fuel oils used in cruise ships.
However, not all the gas is successfully burned, as some always escapes into the atmosphere, referred to as a “methane slip.” This slip reportedly occurs where some gas is not burned, leading to emissions of methane, a climate gas stronger than carbon dioxide.
‘Biggest, baddest’ – but is it the cleanest? World’s largest cruise ship sets sail https://t.co/JUBp4W10cg— Guardian Travel (@GuardianTravel) January 26, 2024
Methane is considered worse than carbon dioxide for the atmosphere in the short term, as it breaks down faster and is about 80 times more potent over a 20-year-period. Some estimates reportedly show that the switch could be overall worse for greenhouse gas emissions.
"They are doubling down by calling LNG a green fuel when the engine is emitting 70 to 80% more greenhouse gas emissions per trip than if it used regular marine fuel," International Council of Clean Transportation (ICCT) marine program director Bryan Comer said. "Icon has the largest LNG tanks ever installed in a ship. It is greenwashing."
The report adds that several studies by environmental organizations have compared the carbon footprint of a week-long holiday on a European cruise with taking a flight and staying in a hotel, concluding that such cruises were up to eight times as carbon intensive.
Comer added that he thinks ships should be using fuel cells and renewable hydrogen or methanol, which emit fewer greenhouse gases.
In response to these claims, Nick Rose, a vice president with Royal Caribbean, stated that LNG was considered the “most promising fuel available at scale,” when Icon was designed more than seven years ago.
“We consider it a transitional fuel that helps builds flexibility into our ship design and also helps us more easily adapt to different types of fuels as the market evolves and other scalable alternatives are introduced.”
According to Rose, the ship was constructed to also work with fuel cells, which create electricity without combustion, to be used to power the lifts, though the batteries were not installed due to a problem with suppliers.
Rose added that the company still planned to find and utilize alternative energy sources, including fuel cells.
“LNG is one part of our alternative fuel strategy, along with biofuels, methanol and other energy sources like shore power,” he stated.
The was also reportedly built to run on electricity supplied from the shore when it is docked, which is expected to act as a cleaner alternative to running highly polluting generators.
However, Venice, Barcelona and Amsterdam are three of the port cities that have since banned or curbed cruise ships amid growing environmental and health concerns.
Additionally, a report came out from the ICCT on methane emissions from LNG-fueled ships just two days before the Icon of the Seas set sail.
The report is based on data collected by drones, helicopters and onboard sensors during a two-year Fugitive and Unburned Methane Emissions from the Ships (FUMES) project.
“This study demonstrates the importance of collecting and analyzing real-world data. Regulators need to use the best available data to develop effective climate policies. If methane slip assumptions remain too low, shipowners will be able to use LNG in high-methane-slip engines longer, effectively getting an unfair advantage over lower-emitting fuels and engines,” Comer stated in the ICCT release.
The study reportedly found that unloading large LNG tankers can result in 24 to 40 kilograms-per-hour of fugitive methane emissions, including approximately 8 kilograms-per-hour of methane slip from the ships’ LPDF 4-stroke engines.
The release come with recommendations for policymakers, including:
According to a report from the BBC, the ship cost around $2 billion to build and has over 40 restaurants, bars and lounges.
About the Ship
A release from Nor-Maali Oy announced that the cruise ship had been coated with paint supplied by the company.
Royal Caribbean International had reportedly ordered three ocean cruise ships from the Meyer Turku shipyard, with Icon of the Seas being the first in the series.
The steel surface coatings for the Icon of the Seas luxury cruise ship were reportedly supplied by Nor-Maali Oy with Jotun. The construction of the ship then reportedly began in June 2021, and the building method was the shipyard’s own block production in combination with subcontracted block manufacturing by partners.
Nor-Maali Oy reportedly provided 750,000 liters of coatings for the steel surface painting of the Icon of the Seas. Additionally, over 370,000 liters of this were in epoxies, of which the largest product was Jotamastic 90, about 250,000 liters.
The two-component topcoats reportedly accounted for around 90,000 liters, with Hardtop AX being the largest single product with over 80,000 liters.
About 90,000 liters of single-component products were also reportedly used for the ship’s interior. For paint volume, Icon of the Seas reportedly represents Nor-Maali Oy’s largest single new construction project as a paint supplier.
The shipyard is reportedly now working on the second ship in the series, the Star of the Seas, which is expected to be completed in 2025. Additionally, the third vessel was set for completion in 2026.
All three ships are reportedly around the same size in terms of tonnage and passenger capacity.