In a pioneering move for the ocean cruise industry, Carnival
Corp. last week signed a deal to build four megaships that will be powered by
liquefied natural gas (LNG), an initiative being hailed as a crucial step
toward curbing the cruise industry’s emissions and environmental impact.
The four ships will be built by the Meyer Werft shipyard as part
of a nine-ship, multibillion-dollar order that Carnival Corp. signed with Meyer
Werft and the Fincantieri shipyard. The new vessels are slated to be delivered
between 2019 and 2022. Two of the natural gas-powered ships will sail for the
German line Aida Cruises. Carnival did not say for which brands the other two
The four megaships will each have a maximum capacity of
“It’s pretty exciting what Carnival has done,” said Nick
Brown, brand and external relations manager at Lloyd’s Register, a U.K.-based
maritime classification organization.
Noting that Carnival is the first ocean cruise line to order
natural gas-powered vessels, Brown said, “The combination of regulation and
fuel prices has made operators look at their options and [natural] gas, which
is now increasingly plentiful, is looking like an increasingly attractive
Indeed, the cruise industry is under growing regulatory
pressure to reduce emissions. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, natural gas is
considered a promising future fuel source for commercial vessels, not least
because its use would substantially reduce carbon, sulfur and nitrogen oxide
According to Carnival Corp., the proposed ships’ hybrid
engines will burn 100% LNG while at sea, and LNG will also be used to power the
ships in port.
“The impact on ports, where lots of ships are coming in,
[will be that] the amount of harmful emissions will decline,” Brown said. He
added that in the time it will take to build the vessels over the next few
years, he expects that natural gas refueling infrastructure in various ports
will be more developed.
In terms of building the LNG-powered vessels, there are
certain logistical considerations. For one, the gas tanks take up more space
than fuel-oil tanks, Brown said. “[So] they’ll have to find adequate space for
the tanks,” he said.
And as for the safety of using and handling natural gas, the
U.S. Coast Guard stated in a report on the topic that as long as cruise lines
follow the International Maritime Organization’s thorough guidelines for the
use of natural gas on vessels, “natural gas fuel systems … are considered to
provide a level of safety that is at least equivalent to that provided for
traditional fuel systems.”
Carnival Corp.’s 6,600-passenger LNG-fueled ships will each
be 180,000 gross tons. In comparison, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships are
225,282 gross tons and have a maximum capacity of 6,360 passengers.
Carnival Corp. said that an “innovative design” will make
efficient use of the ships’ spaces. CEO Arnold Donald said the four-ship
contract was consistent with the company’s strategy to replace ships that have
less efficient capacity with newer, larger and more fuel-efficient vessels.
“We are looking forward to executing on the next step in our
fleet enhancement plan,” Donald said. “At a cost per berth in line with our
existing order book, these new ships will enhance the return profile of our
fleet. These are exceptionally efficient ships with incredible cabins and