OCTOBER 11, 2016 — Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has signed a memorandum of understanding with Finnish shipbuilder Meyer Turku for two next-generation cruise ships, of around 200,000 gt. To be called "Icon Class," they will be fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and introduce the use of fuel cell technology.
"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."
The ships will join the fleet of Royal Caribbean International and will be delivered in the second quarters of 2022 and 2024. In the meantime, the company will begin testing fuel cell technology on an existing Oasis-class ship in 2017 and will also run progressively larger fuel cell projects on new Quantum class vessels being built in the next several years.
Royal Caribbean has been making steady progress on energy efficiency and reduced emissions through such technologies as air lubrication, which sends billions of microscopic bubbles along the hull of a ship to reduce friction, and AEP (advanced emissions purification)exhaust gas 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."
Mr. Bayley added that exciting and innovative new guest experience elements of the Icon class design will be revealed later in the development process.
"Our partnership with RCL has created a number of groundbreaking ship classes, such as Oasis, Celebrity Solstice, Quantum, and Mein Schiff, and we are grateful that Royal Caribbean is again giving us the opportunity to partner with them on a new class of ships," said Jan Meyer, the CEO of Meyer Turku.
The switch to LNG builds further momentum for the technology.
"Increasing the commitment to LNG makes it easier for suppliers to make their own infrastructure commitments," said Fain. "As more ships are built for LNG, the number of ports that support it will grow."
The Icon ships are expected to run primarily on LNG but will also be able to run on distillate fuel, to accommodate occasional itineraries that call on ports without LNG infrastructure.
The introduction of fuel cells is another step forward for the maritime industry, which has only made limited experiments using the technology.
"We believe fuel cells offer very interesting design possibilities," said Harri Kulovaara, RCL's chief of ship design. "As the technology becomes smaller and more efficient, fuel cells become more viable in a significant way to power the ship's hotel functions. We will begin testing those possibilities as soon as we can, and look to maximize their use when Icon class debuts."
Mr. Kulovaara said RCL had been eyeing fuel cells for nearly a decade, and believes the technology is now at a stage of development that justifies investment.
"There is a long lead time for Icon class, and we will use that time to work with Meyer Turku to adapt fuel cell technology for maritime use," he said, noting that additional regulatory standards would also need to be developed for the technology.
Because of the long lead time, Kulovaara said that many Icon design elements are in early stages. The Icon ships would likely accommodate approximately 5,000 passengers, he said, but details are still being worked out.
"Our common aim is to develop fuel cells to a level that allows their usage in a significant application to power the ship's hotel functions," said Jan Meyer.
With the new orders, Meyer Turku shipyard will increase its output until 2024 substantially beyond the Turku shipyard's all-time-high work load during the building of the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas n 2007 – 2009.
"This historically long and high-load order book enables us to modernize Turku ship yard into a modern data-driven ship factory and grow it to a new level 50% above the all-time-high. With our investments of more than EUR 75 million, we are investing more in Finland than any other company in our industry. Both the new ship orders as well as our investments will provide a lot of good work for many other Finnish companies and for our own growing team," said Jan Meyer, CEO of Meyer Turku.