Arrivals & Departures Green at sea

Photo of Angie Tomlinson

Royal Caribbean Cruises works to take the smoke out of its smokestacks.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has unveiled an ambitious plan for reducing emissions at sea that will see the introduction of fuel cell technology and ships powered by liquefied natural gas.

To be built under the project name Icon, the new class of vessels are expected to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"With Icon class, we move further in the journey to take the smoke out of our smokestacks," Royal Caribbean Cruises chief executive Richard Fain said.

The ships will be delivered in 2022 and 2024, but in the meantime Royal Caribbean Cruises said it will begin testing fuel cell technology on an existing Oasis-class ship next year, as well as running progressively larger fuel cell projects on the new Quantum class vessels being built in the next few years.

The company already employs technologies such as air lubrication, which sends billions of microscopic bubbles along the hull of a ship to reduce friction, and AEP scrubbers, which clean exhaust gases before they leave the ship.

Royal Caribbean International chief executive Michael Bayley said innovative new guest experience elements of the Icon-class design would be revealed later in the development process.

Royal Caribbean Cruises chief of ship design Harri Kulovaara said the company had been eyeing fuel cells for nearly a decade, and believed the technology is now at a stage of development that justified investment.

He said a long build lead time meant many of Icon’s design elements were in the early stages, but it was expected the ships would accommodate about 5000 passengers.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has 11 ships on order and currently operates 48 ships calling at about 490 destinations.