Fuel Cell Technology producing zero sulphur emissions will be used to propel a brand new ‘Icon’ class of cruise ships sailing for Royal Caribbean, the company announced overnight, with two new ships with potential capacity of 5,000 passengers each set to join the fleet from the second quarters of 2022 and 2024.
Both of the new vessels, neither of which have been named as yet, will be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), which sees Royal Caribbean join its rival Carnival Corporation by investing in the cleaner, greener fuel-burning technology.
In addition to the new ships, Royal Caribbean said in the meantime it will test fuel cell technology on one of its existing Oasis-class ships – currently the world’s three largest cruise ships Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas – and future Quantum-class ships, of which there are two scheduled for delivery in 2019 and 2020.
The cleaner fuel will complement existing measures in play already including air lubrication (a process of emitting billions of microscopic bubbles along the hull’s edge to reduce friction) and advanced emissions purification (AEP) scrubbers – an already widely used practice of cleaning a ship’s exhaust fumes with seawater – itself a natural neutraliser of sulphur – to remove 99% of the toxins from emissions and properly disposing of the residue when in port.
The new fuel cell technology, according to Royal Caribbean, will produce zero emissions. The company added the new propulsion technology had been on its radar for “nearly a decade”, saying its development was now at a stage which justified investment.
Finnish shipbuilding firm Meyer Turku has been engaged to work with the company to design and build its new class of ship, which will also feature a wide variety of exciting new passenger activities and technologies to be revealed as the design process takes its course. While LNG will be used as the primary fuel source for the new vessels, the cruise brand said distillate fuels will also be able to be used, enabling the ships to visit ports around the world ill-equipped with LNG infrastructure to provide refuelling services.
Royal Caribbean president Michael Bayley said its guests expected it to “push every envelope” when it comes to the design of new cruise ships.
“And on this new class of ship, we began by challenging ourselves to find a new approach to power and propulsion that is safe, reliable, and more energy-efficient than ever before.”
With a minimum of six years until the first ship is expected to be put into service, Royal Caribbean head of ship design Harri Kulovaara said the company will use this time to test and adapt fuel cells for maritime use as well as help to develop additional regulatory standards that will need to be put in place to support the technology.