World’s Largest Cruise Ship Sets Sail Thanks to LNG

Fri, February 02, 2024

Despite recent decisions by the Biden Administration to restrict the exportation of liquified natural gas (LNG) for use around the world, industries are still leaning into the fuel as a means to innovate and reduce the environmental impact of operations. The largest cruise ship in the world—a 250,800-ton vessel with 20-decks and a passenger capacity of nearly 8,000 people—embarked on its maiden voyage on January 27, 2023. Better yet, it was powered by LNG.

As the first cruise liner to run on LNG, Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is 24% more energy efficient than required by the International Maritime Organization and houses “cutting -edge features” like the largest water park at sea, the ability to run on shore power electricity while at port, a “first-of-its-kind” waste management system, and advanced water purification.

Cruise Lines International Association (CILA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, discussed the environmental benefits of using LNG as fuel in its 2023 Environmental Technologies and Practices Report. According to the report, and findings from a recent Sea-LNG analysis, “L.N.G. is currently the fossil fuel available at a scale that has the best performance in reducing atmospheric emissions."

Icon of the Seas is the latest example of LNG and natural gas’ ability to reduce emissions now, rather than waiting for other technologies to become scalable or deployable. In the United States, the power sector reduced its CO2 emissions by nearly 8%, thanks in large part to the switch from coal to natural gas. The marine industry is looking to natural gas and LNG to meet its emission goals too.

According to SEA-LNG, LNG reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28% on a tank-to-wake basis when compared to conventional marine fuels. The infrastructure needed to support LNG refueling is also widely available, with bunkering possible at most key ports and major oil bunkering hubs around the world. LNG is also operationally proven for use in the marine environment, with standards, guidelines and operating protocols being long established, with an “unblemished 50-year safety record.”  

Thanks to the Lone Star State, the U.S. has helped meet growing LNG demand globally. With global demand for LNG expected to grow 57% by 2035, it is critical now more than ever that our policymakers continue to support the industry. “Texas’ natural gas industry is a cornerstone of American energy and national security, and our state’s operators are responsible for meeting growing demand across the globe,” said Ed Longanecker, President at the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association. “As we continue to invest in energy infrastructure to meet this challenge, it is essential that policies and regulations support this growth.”

LNG is proving to be the most effective tool for reducing emissions across industries. Icon of the Seas is the latest example of how this critical fuel is spurring innovations and making modern maritime travel sustainable. This progress can only continue if the permitting landscape is navigable and supports the industry’s efforts to innovate and grow.