Cruise Lines Move on Decarbonisation of the Cruise Industry

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Costa Group, the unit of Carnival Corporation that operates Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises, signed an MOU with a Switzerland-based methanol producer that the two companies say will spur the use of methanol as a clean fuel for the cruise industry.

The move is in line with other major cruise companies that have committed to developing methanol fuel as a path toward becoming carbon neutral.

Carbon Neutral by 2050

The partnership between Costa Group and methane producer Proman, headquartered in Wollerau, Switzerland, will speed the energy transition and decarbonization of Costa Group’s fleet, the companies said in an announcement on February 16.

It said the pact will lead to the retrofitting of existing ships to enable them to run on the clean fuel and the construction of methanol-fueled new builds.

Costa Group Vice President of Decarbonisation Christoph Schladoer said, ”We are reducing the carbon footprint of our fleet while at port and at sea, investing in advanced environmental technologies and partnering with companies such as Proman who share a passion for sustainable energy transition.”

He added, “By enabling cruise ships to use methanol as a propulsion fuel, Costa follows the ambition to take the next big step towards GHG (greenhouse gas) neutral operations of our fleet by 2050.”

Costa Toscana Cruise Ship
Costa Toscana Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Sanjay JS / Shutterstock)

Compared to conventional fuels, renewable methanol cuts carbon dioxide emissions by up to 95%, reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80%, and completely eliminates sulfur oxide and particulate matter emissions, according to the Methanol Institute, the trade organization for the methanol industry.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the benefits of methanol fuel include lower production costs compared to other alternative fuels, a lower risk of flammability versus gasoline, and increased energy security, because it can be manufactured from multiple sources such as biomass, coal, and natural gas.

Just one new-build cruise ship is being constructed with the ability to run on green methanol, TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 7. Due to launch in 2024, the ship will run on lower-emission marine diesel but be fitted for methanol fuel as well.

AIDAprima Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: AIDA Cruises

The 2,900-guest Mein Schiff 7 is being built at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. TUI Cruises is a joint venture between TUI AG and Royal Caribbean Cruises.

While the Costa-Proman MOU announcement did not detail specific actions, it noted that methanol is gaining ground as an alternative fuel that can help to meet GHG reduction goals.

Proman’s Managing Director of Corporate Development Tim Cornelius said, ”The technology to retrofit a vessel to accept methanol as a fuel is available today.  Our methanol products can facilitate the transition to low carbon intensity fuels. Methanol-powered vessels have a proven track record of reducing and eliminating major greenhouse gas emissions, delivering immediate air quality improvements around major ports and shipping lanes.”

Other Fuel Alternatives

Costa Group also noted that the company considers itself a sustainable innovator in the global cruise industry by pioneering advanced technologies on board its new and existing ships.

It was the first in the industry to introduce liquefied natural gas (LNG) propulsion for lowering emissions and has four ships sailing with LNG today.

Costa Toscana Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Costa Cruises

They include two AIDA ships, the 5,252-guest AIDAnova, which launched in 2018, and the 6,654-guest AIDAcosma, which entered service in 2021, plus the 5,224-guest Costa Smeralda, which debuted in 2019, and the 6,600-guest Costa Toscana, which launched in 2022. Several other cruise lines also have LNG-powered ships operating today.

Another major player in the cruise industry, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, became a member of the Methanol Institute in June 2022.

The company said it was “assessing the feasibility of retrofitting existing engines to operate with dual fuels – diesel and methanol – with the goal to test the use of methanol by 2025.”

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