One of the first lessons taught to new chemistry students – water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one of oxygen – is the basis for clean, green propulsion technology that will be introduced aboard a new class of ships announced today by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
This class, now known only as Project Icon, will include two ships largely powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), which has been making inroads in the maritime industry on various types of commercial vessels.
The other Project Icon innovation has not.
Next year, RCL will begin testing fuel cells as a supplemental energy source aboard an existing ship in preparation for use on the Project Icon vessels. Those ships are to be delivered in the second quarters of 2022 and 2024.
“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.”
RCL has signed a memorandum of understanding with Finnish shipbuilder Meyer Turku, adding Icon class to a relationship that has already produced Oasis of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice, Quantum of the Seas and other ships under the RCL umbrella.
The Icon ships’ green technologies continue RCL’s steady progress on increased energy efficiency and reduced emissions. This includes the introduction of air lubrication, which coats the underside of a ship with a blanket of microscopic bubbles to reduce friction, as well as fitting and retrofitting its ships with Advanced Emission Purification systems, informally known as exhaust scrubbers.
“Our guests expect us to push every envelope we can,” said Michael Bayley, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean International. “And on this new class of ship, we began by challenging ourselves to find a new approach to power and propulsion that is safe, reliable, and more energy-efficient than ever before.”
The introduction of fuel cells represents such a push in an industry that has made just limited attempts to use them. Described most simply, they are fed hydrogen, convert it to electricity and produce only water as a byproduct or waste.
“As the technology becomes smaller and more efficient, the possibility increases of using fuel cells in a significant way to power the ship’s hotel functions,” said Harri Kulovaara, RCL’s chief of ship design. “We will begin testing those possibilities as soon as we can, and look to maximize their use when Icon class debuts.”
Icon is the first new ship class announced by RCL since Celebrity Cruises’ Edge class, which debuts in 2018. The company is also expanding its fleet with new Oasis- and Quantum-class ships for RCI. Fain said the new ships are in line with RCL’s strategy of moderate capacity growth.
The consumer-facing elements of Icon class ships are to be unveiled later in their development process. RCL’s order with Meyer Turku is contingent upon the usual conditions, and final contracts to be done by year’s end.