Luxury cruise industry aims to lower carbon footprint through design technology, alternative fuels
The luxury cruise industry wants to cut its carbon footprint by making more energy efficient ships, tapping new fuels, and improving its handling of hydrocarbons so as not to repeat the 2017 pollution conviction that put the spotlight on the industry´s environmental risks.
“Despite being over 25% larger, our carbon footprint peaked more than a decade ago. And we've set 2030 targets for carbon intensity to be 20% lower than 2019 levels,” said Josh Weinstein, CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, in an earnings discussion on Sep. 30, 2022.
Royal Caribbean, the second biggest pleasure cruise company after Carnival and also Miami-based, shared in May its own path to become carbon neutral. Norwegian Cruise Lines, like the other two also based in Miami, has also announced this year a net zero strategy.
Hybrid fuel cells, methanol-retrofitted engines and LNG-capable ships have been or will be introduced as part of the efforts to lower the carbon footprint by the different companies to try to be greener. Cruise lines run mostly on diesel.
A luxury cruise ship can release as much as ten times more carbon emissions than all of Europe’s cars, according to a marine insight (marineinsight.com) report on June 16, 2022. In 2018 the cruise industry served over 26 million customers, it estimated.
Carnival, with 23 ships that cover routes that range from two to 23-day cruises, said its decarbonization path involves mainly technology investment.
Weinstein mentioned “technology upgrades currently being rolled out, investing in port and destination projects, even more focus on itinerary optimization and realizing the benefit of our fleet optimization efforts,” according to a Motley Fool call transcript.
“While there is no silver bullet to decarbonization for our industry yet, we are committed to working toward a solution. To this end, I'm excited about three successful pilots we recently completed using biofuels in existing engines without modification,” Weinstein added.
In addition to the 23 Carnival ships, the full portfolio includes Germany-based Aida with 13 ships, Italy-based Costa with 12 ships, the Southampton, England-based Cunard with three, Seattle, Washington-based Holland America with 11, P&O Australia with three, P&O Cruises with six, California-based Princess with 15, and Seabourn, also based in Seattle, with five ships.
The AIDAnova, a ship by AIDA lines with 5,200-passenger capacity, became in 2018 the first LNG-capable ship. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is methane compressed 600 times through cryonenic processing. This reduces storage volume but requires cryogenic freezing capacity throughout transport.
A case involving the pleasure cruise industry and specifically Carnival has in recent years put the spotlight on the industry´s hydrocarbon-related pollution.
Princess Cruise Lines on Jan. 11, 2022 pleaded guilty to a second violation of probation that had been imposed after a 2017 pollution-related criminal conviction, the Department oF Justice said.
“Princess was ordered to pay an additional $1 million criminal fine and required to undertake remedial measures to ensure that it and its parent Carnival Cruise Lines & plc establish and maintain the independent internal investigative office known as the Incident Analysis Group,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement.
Princess was convicted and sentenced on April 2017. It was fined $40 million after pleading guilty to “deliberate dumping of oil-contaminated waste” and for intentional cover up, according to the DOJ. It was the largest-ever criminal fine related to intentional pollution from ships, it said.
Princess was convicted in 2019 of six probation violations, fined an additional $20 million, and required to undertake more remedial measures. Two of those violations involved interfering with the court’s probation supervision, the DOJ added.
Royal Caribbean´s path
Royal Caribbean announced in May its own strategy to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Royal Caribbean´s approach will involve a fuel-cell hybrid design that allows for zero emission at ports while “future-proofing the company's ship-building portfolio through fuel flexibility and innovation that ensure each new ship class is 20% more energy efficient than its predecessor.”
Royal Caribbean is also “developing waste management technologies that can convert waste to energy. Currently 100% of the fleet is equipped to be landfill-free,” it said.
Royal Caribbean, with a total fleet of 63 ships, is also 50% owner of a joint venture that operates TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd. Together, the brands have an additional 11 ships on order as of March 2022.
Disney´s new LNG ship
Disney will launch in 2024 the Disney Wish, with 2,150 guest cabins, that will run on LNG. This will result in 20% less greenhouse gases, mousesteps.com reported on June 29.
“At Disney Cruise Line, we remain dedicated to limiting our impact on the environment as we support The Walt Disney Company’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2030,” said Sharon Siskie, general manager of Disney Cruise Line.
The use of LNG as ship fuel compared with alternatives eliminates most sulfur oxides, reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by 37%, and cuts onboard carbon dioxide releases by 20%, according to Disney.
The Disney Wish will re- purpose heat coming from the engine to warm the LNG and expand the gas again. Cold energy from the LNG tanks will feed the ship’s air-conditioning systems and reduce power needs. This will help Disney Wish save “200 tons of fuel per year,” according to mousesteps.com.
Norwegian eyes methanol
Norwegian Cruise Lines said on April 21 it is exploring using methanol as fuel to help reach net zero emissions by 2050. The company has 17 vessels and with its brands including Oceania and Regent Seven Seas has a total of 28 ships.
Norwegian is “actively engaging with partners including engine manufacturers and classification societies in planning for a safe and effective methanol engine retrofit,” it said.
Methanol, already one of the most traded chemical commodities and relatively easy to produce and store, has captured interest also in cargo shipping.
The industry was one of the most heavily hit by the pandemic. The total worldwide ocean cruise industry was estimated at $24 billion in 2021, double from 2020 but half from 2019, according to cruisemarketwatch.com.
By Renzo Pipoli