The next class of Royal Caribbean cruise ship will be powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas) and introduce the use of fuel cell technology to considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the company, the move marks a new era in shipbuilding.
A memorandum of understanding was signed with shipbuilder Meyer Turku for the new class of ship under the project name "Icon”, with two ships expected to be delivered to the fleet in 2022 and 2024.
Before the new ships debut, testing of fuel cell technology will begin next year on an existing Oasis-class ship, while larger fuel cell projects will also be run on new Quantum class vessels under construction in the next few years.
Use of the new technologies will result in much cleaner emissions, the company said, as they produce no sulfur and significantly reduce the production of nitrogen oxides and particulates.
"With Icon class, we move further in the journey to take the smoke out of our smokestacks," said Richard Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. "We are dedicated to innovation, continuous improvement, and environmental responsibility, and Icon gives us the opportunity to deliver against all three of these pillars."
The switch to LNG provides further momentum for the technology, which has begun making significant inroads in the maritime industry.
"Increasing the commitment to LNG makes it easier for suppliers to make their own infrastructure commitments," said Fain. "As more ships are built for LNG, the number of ports that support it will grow."
The Icon ships, which are likely to accommodate approximately 5,000 passengers, are expected to run primarily on LNG but will also be able to run on distillate fuel, to accommodate itineraries that call on ports without LNG infrastructure.
Michael Bayley, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean International added that new “guest experience elements” of the Icon class design will be revealed later in the development process.
Icon is the first new ship class announced by RCL since Celebrity Cruises' new Edge class, which debuts in 2018. The company is also expanding its fleet with new Oasis- and Quantum-class ships for Royal Caribbean International. This order is contingent upon the completion of contractual conditions, including documentation and financing. Final contracts are expected to be completed by the end of the year.