The world’s largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas, will embark on its first week-long cruise to the Caribbean at the end of January this year. It is exceptionally luxurious and offers its passengers a range of on-board activities, including a huge entertainment and relaxation area. Such a colossus raises concerns about its environmental impact, but the builders ensure that it is the most environmentally friendly cruise ship. Is this true? Is there data available on the carbon footprint of this giant? So far, huge cruise ships are using more and more energy-intensive facilities, and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing.
Largest cruise ship like a floating hotel
The Icon of the Seas ship, owned by Royal Caribbean, is more than 360 meters long and weighs about 250,000. tone. There are twenty decks that house: forty restaurants, bars and lounges, seven pools, six slides, nightclubs, an ice rink, a tree-lined park and a theater. The cruise ship is capable of accommodating nearly 10,000. persons including crew. Icon of the Seas is the largest passenger ship in the world. Royal Caribbean believes their cruise ship could usher in a new era in the way people spend their vacations. Icon is not just a floating entertainment center. It is also intended to be the beginning of a greener approach to water recreation.
Carbon footprint of cruise ships
Sailing is seen as more energy-efficient compared to flying by plane. This is true for cargo ships, which are characterized by relatively small living space and efficient use of space. Cruise ships, however, are a separate category – large-scale hotel infrastructure requires significant energy consumption, even when not at full occupancy and not sailing.
Director of the Maritime Program at the International Council for Maritime Affairs. Clean Transportation Commissioner Bryan Comer has published data on the carbon footprint of cruises in 2022. The analysis looks at carbon dioxide emissions produced by cruise ships and passenger aircraft. It turns out that a person who takes a five-day cruise on a cruise ship, even the most efficient one, will be responsible for generating about 500 kg ofCO2. The same person, having chosen the option of round-trip air travel, with a stay in a four-star hotel, would produce 235 kg ofCO2.
The average carbon dioxide emissions of cruise ships are about 250 grams per passenger per kilometer of travel, while for airplanes this figure ranges from 10 to 130 grams, depending on the length of the flight. A cruise generates about twice the total greenhouse gas emissions of an airplane flight, Comer says.
According to International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations, new ships must be 30 percent of the size. more energy-efficient than those built in 2014. A Royal Caribbean spokesman says Icon of the Seas is designed to operate at 24 percent. more efficiently than international standards for new ships assume. In 2022, the latest year for which data is available, Royal Caribbean’s direct emissions were 5.5 million tons ofCO2 equivalent. This is 0.2 million tons more than in 2019. The company admits that their largest ship will still be observed over the next six to twelve months to confirm compliance with the design intent.
Replacing oil-based fuel with liquefied natural gas (LNG)
Royal Caribbean and several other companies have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. To meet their targets, cruise ship operators are increasingly replacing oil-based fuels with lower-carbon alternatives, most commonly liquefied natural gas (LNG). The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) believes that of the 44 new ships ordered by 2028, more than half will run on natural gas. Icon of the Seas operates on a 300-ton tank of LNG fuel.
Ships using LNG emit 25 percent more. less carbon dioxide than those that use traditional fuels. However, in 2023, environmental activists conducted an investigation that showed that LNG-powered cruise ships release methane, which is 80 times more dangerous in its effects thanCO2, directly into the atmosphere. In the short term, LNG may be more harmful to the climate than traditional fuel.
A Royal Caribbean representative says that when the Icon ship was designed eight years ago, LNG was considered the fuel of the future, and its engine was the most efficient option. Comer believes that cruise ship operators could switch to a more sustainable type of fuel. For example, replace liquefied natural gas with methanol – an alternative that can reduce emissions over the vehicle’s life cycle to little or no emissions.
Rating of ships from A to E – regulations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The maritime industry faces the need to reduce emissions. Last year, the IMO began requiring companies with ships above a certain size to report the ship’s energy efficiency index (EEXI) and began collecting data related to the operational carbon intensity index (CII), which takes into account a ship’s emissions, cargo carried and distance traveled.
Ships, starting this year, will be given a sustainability rating: from A to E, based on the data obtained. Cruise ships with a grade of D for three consecutive years or a grade of E for one year will have to submit a corrective action plan, although it is unclear what the penalties are for poor performance.