The recent launch of the world’s largest cruise ship, the “Giant of the Seas,” has sparked a wave of environmental concerns, despite claims of using cleaner fuel. Set to embark on its maiden voyage from Miami, this colossal vessel stands taller than the Eiffel Tower, with the capacity to host over 7,000 passengers and crew.
Royal Caribbean’s “Giant of the Seas” is a marvel of modern engineering, featuring 20 decks and amenities like the sea’s most extensive waterpark and a 55-foot indoor waterfall. However, its environmental impact has come under scrutiny, overshadowing its grandeur.
Environmental experts have raised the alarm over the cruise tourism sector’s carbon footprint, highlighting that a week-long cruise can be significantly more carbon-intensive than equivalent vacations involving flights and hotel stays.
The ship’s use of liquified natural gas (LNG) as fuel has been a major talking point. Royal Caribbean touts LNG as the “cleanest-burning marine fuel,” but critics, including Bryan Comer from the International Council on Clean Transportation, argue that this is misleading. Comer asserts that LNG-powered ships emit up to 80% more greenhouse gases per trip than those using standard marine fuel, due to “methane slip” – a process where unburned gas releases methane, a more potent climate gas than CO2.
Despite LNG reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 25%, its overall greenhouse gas emissions are higher. Comer advocates for alternative solutions like fuel cells and renewable hydrogen or methanol, which have lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The “Giant of the Seas,” designed over seven years ago, was built with future adaptability in mind. Nick Rose, a Royal Caribbean vice-president, acknowledges LNG as a transitional fuel. The ship was intended to incorporate fuel cells for powering certain operations, but installation has been delayed due to supplier issues.
Royal Caribbean maintains its commitment to exploring alternative energy sources, including biofuels, methanol, and shore power. When docked, the ship can run on electricity supplied from the shore, reducing reliance on polluting generators.
Marcie Keever of Friends of the Earth US criticizes the cruise industry’s direction, citing the environmental and infrastructural impact of accommodating such massive vessels, which can harm reefs and ecosystems.
As the “Giant of the Seas” prepares to set sail, its environmental implications remain a hot topic, igniting debates on sustainable tourism and the future of cruise travel.