The grand departure of the world's largest cruise ship from Miami, Florida, marks the beginning of its inaugural journey, yet amidst the excitement, concerns loom over its methane emissions. The Icon of the Seas, stretching an impressive 365 meters (1,197 ft) in length and boasting 20 decks capable of accommodating up to 7,600 passengers, is the pride of Royal Caribbean Group.
Embarking on a seven-day expedition through the Caribbean, this behemoth of the seas runs on liquefied natural gas (LNG), sparking worries among environmentalists about potential methane leaks into the atmosphere. Despite its advanced features, including seven swimming pools and six water slides, the vessel's environmental impact raises eyebrows.
Constructed at a shipyard in Turku, Finland, and flying the flag of the Bahamas, this $2 billion (£1.6bn) marvel offers an array of amenities, from over 40 dining options to numerous bars and lounges. However, the environmental implications of its LNG propulsion system cast a shadow over its opulence. While LNG is considered cleaner than traditional marine fuels, the risk of methane leakage remains, amplifying concerns about its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
Bryan Comer, Director of the Marine Programme at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), voices skepticism about the environmental claims, suggesting that LNG usage may emit significantly more greenhouse gases than conventional marine fuels. A recent report from the ICCT challenges existing assumptions about methane emissions from LNG-fueled ships, highlighting the urgency of curbing such pollutants to mitigate global warming.
Royal Caribbean defends its vessel, citing it as 24% more energy-efficient than mandated by international standards. Moreover, the company aims to unveil a net-zero emissions ship by 2035, reflecting a commitment to sustainability amidst the cruise industry's rapid expansion. With the popularity of cruise holidays surging, particularly among younger demographics, the industry's economic significance continues to grow, contributing $75 billion (£59bn) to the global economy in 2021.
As the Icon of the Seas embarks on its maiden voyage, it draws attention not only for its sheer size but also for the debates surrounding its environmental impact. Amidst the lavish amenities and celebrity appearances, including Lionel Messi's participation in the naming ceremony, the ship's carbon footprint remains a pressing concern in the quest for a more sustainable future.