Holland America Line Successfully Tests Biofuels on Cruise Ship

A full test of biofuels has finished aboard Holland America Line's MS Volendam, with very promising results for cleaner cruise ship fuel.

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Earlier this month, Holland America Line successfully completed the first ever long term, 100% biofuel test aboard an operating cruise ship, MS Volendam, while the ship was positioned in Rotterdam.

The test, which began with mixed fuels but progressed to complete biofuel use, took 20 days and had very promising results for lowering cruise ship emissions.

Biofuels Used on Volendam

The test aboard Volendam was conducted in partnership with GoodFuels, a leading producer and supplier of sustainable biofuels for the transportation industry, and Wärtsiläa global leader in power and propulsion technologies for the marine market.

The biofuels used are derived from feedstocks certified as 100% waste or residue. This means the fuel creates no new land-use issues, does not compete with agricultural food production, and does not contribute to deforestation.

The 20-day test began in late August and concluded on September 7, 2022. For the first five days, a mixture of 30% biofuel and 70% marine gas oil (MGO) was used in one of Volendam‘s main auxiliary engines. For the remaining 15 days, the ship used nothing but biofuels.

After analyzing the data collected through the testing periods, GoodFuels determined there was a 78% decrease in lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions during the final 15 days of trial compared to marine gas oil emissions.

Holland America Volendam
Holland America Volendam

This extremely positive result represents a promising step toward cleaner, more sustainable fuel for the cruise industry.

“We were excited to have this opportunity to test a next-generation fuel resource on a Holland America Line ship, and we are very encouraged by the results,” said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line.

“As part of our commitment to sustainability, we have always looked for cutting-edge solutions to environmental challenges that will help us meet Carnival Corporation’s sustainability goals over the coming decades.”

While this is just a first test of using biofuels aboard an active cruise ship, such good results can likely be carried into further tests and greater use of these alternative fuels.

“Our extensive work in testing alternative marine fuels is a central part of our efforts to shape viable decarbonisation options for our customers,” said Ricardo Opperman, managing director of Wärtsilä North America Inc.

“We are continuously developing our engine technology to accept and retain operational and environmental efficiency levels with various future fuels, including biofuels. These sea trials with 100% biofuel will be especially important — for Carnival Corporation, for Goodfuels, for Wärtsilä, and for the industry as a whole.”

Why This Ship?

At the time of the test, the Rotterdam-class MS Volendam was docked in Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands, housing refugees from Ukraine as per earlier charter agreements with the city. It is not known whether any refugees remained onboard during the test.

While biofuel tests have been run on large diesel engines at shoreside research facilities and on a few cargo ships, these tests with Volendam represented the first live tests on working cruise ships.

Volendam was selected for the test since it was already located at Rotterdam, one of the global ports where GoodFuels operates the infrastructure necessary to provide biofuel services. This meant there was no need to pull a ship from service or relocate to a different port, and the vessel could conduct the test during regular operations.

Holland America Volendam
Photo Courtesy: Holland America Line

For crew members onboard, there is no significant difference in handling regular fuel oil versus biofuel. In fact, the “drop-in” biofuel tested on Volendam requires no shipboard refitting or special equipment, making it especially attractive as an alternative fuel.

While this is the first large scale test of biofuels on an operating cruise ship, this is not the first overall biofuel test in the Carnival Corporation family. AIDA Cruises conducted a blended biofuel test with AIDAprima in July, also partnering with Goodfuels and also in Rotterdam.

Volendam has now completed not only the biofuel test, but also its charter with the city of Rotterdam.

At last report, the ship was headed to Malaga, Spain, an intermediate stop along the way to Trieste, Italy, where the ship will embark cruise travelers for a 28-night Holy Land cruise, which passengers can enjoy in different smaller segments if preferred.

Volendam can welcome up to 1,432 guests, with approximately 630 international crew members onboard. In November, the ship will reposition to Fort Lauderdale for a winter of Caribbean and South America itineraries, before moving to Vancouver for the 2023 Alaska cruise season.

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