LNG-Powered Cruise Ships Lead the Way

Costa ship

Published Oct 30, 2017 11:41 PM by Allan E. Jordan

The cruise ship and shipbuilding industries marked an important milestone recently with the beginning of construction of the AIDAnova in Germany and the Costa Smeralda in Finland. Far more than just two more new cruise ships, they will be the first of a new generation of cruise ships fully powered by LNG.

The adoption of LNG-power represents the first significant development in ship power in nearly a century. Since the conversion from coal the 1920s, ships have used heavy oil as their fuel source. In the 1960s the modern, purpose-built cruise ships standardized on diesel motors, but in an effort to control fuel costs most of the current generation of ships have plants that can use either diesel or heavy oil. Yet, while there have been further improvements in engine efficiency and better environmental performance, the core technology has remained largely unchanged.

“Without a doubt, the future belongs to low-pollutant LNG,” asserts Meyer Werft, one of the world’s leading shipbuilders.

Encouraged by the potential for cost savings and the ability to meet pending air quality regulations, maritime industry expects the number of LNG-powered ships to more than double by 2020 with the cruise lines being among the early adopters of this technology. In fact, there are already 16 confirmed orders for large LNG-powered cruise ships, representing a quarter of all the cruise tonnage on order. Carnival Corporation has contracted with Meyer Werft for seven LNG ships, including two each for AIDA and Costa, as well as two for Carnival Cruise Line and one for P&O Cruises.

Other firms that are adopting LNG-power include Royal Caribbean International, which has ordered two ships from Meyer, and Disney Cruise Line, which will use LNG-power for its three cruise ships also on order at Meyer. In addition, MSC Cruises plans to build four 200,000 gross ton LNG-powered cruise ships at STX France.

The first fully LNG-powered cruise ship, the AIDAnova, is due to enter service in 15 months. In the interim, Carnival and AIDA have already been gaining experience successfully using LNG in the dual-fuel engines on AIDA’s new cruise ship the AIDAprima to generate power while in port at Hamburg, Southampton, Le Havre, and Zeebrügge. There are, however, a number of challenges, including creating a global LNG supply network and storage facilities, still to be resolved.

“Since this a breakthrough in the industry, there are numerous obstacles,” notes Roger Frizzell, Carnival Corporation’s chief communications officer. “Initially, the goal will be to prove out the technology and work with our partners to develop a supply line that can successfully fuel our ships around the world.”

Due to begin cruising around the Canary Islands in December 2018, the AIDAnova will be the first cruise ship in the world able to operate in ports and at sea powered by LNG fuel. Elements of the power plant for the AIDAnova have already arrived at the building hall in Papenburg, Germany, and will serve as a model for the future LNG plants. She will have four dual-fuel motors built by Caterpillar capable of producing a 17-knot service speed, with 3,500 cubic meters of LNG storage. Two tanks will each measure approximately 35 meters (115 feet) with a diameter of eight meters (26 feet) and a third tank will measure 28 meters (92 feet) with a diameter of five meters (16 feet).

The construction and introduction of the AIDAnova will be followed very closely in the coming months as everyone in the industry is anxious to see if LNG-power is truly the future of the cruise industry.