Royal Caribbean makes ‘key step’ in pursuit of alternative fuels

Royal Caribbean Group has become the first major cruise line operator to sail a cruise ship from a US port while using renewable diesel fuel to meet part of the ship’s fuel needs.

Navigator of the Seas. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Group
Navigator of the Seas. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Group

On 28 October, Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas set sail from the Port of Los Angeles using renewable fuel to reduce its carbon emissions.

What is described as a key step in the company’s pursuit of alternative fuels comes a year after the unveiling of its comprehensive decarbonisation strategy Destination Net Zero.

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“We are committed to investing in technologies and innovations that will help us reduce emissions and fulfill our purpose to deliver great vacations responsibly”, said Laura Hodges Bethge, Royal Caribbean Group’s Executive Vice President, Shared Services Operations. “As we celebrate this milestone, we continue to set our sights on other leading alternative solutions to meet our net zero goals.”

For the trial, Royal Caribbean Group has partnered with World Fuel Services to supply renewable fuel to Navigator of the Seas.

As explained, the renewable fuel being used by the ship contains less carbon than traditional marine fuels. While this fuel is produced from renewable raw materials, the production process for this fuel makes it molecularly identical to traditional marine gas oil — creating a “drop-in” fuel that can be safely used with the ship’s existing engines.

The cruise company said it plans to continue using lower carbon fuel to meet part of the Los Angeles-based ship’s fuel needs as it evaluates the feasibility for long-term use, with ambitions to expand its usage to other ships across the fleet. This follows a similar trial by the group’s joint venture partner, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which is exploring a different process for developing sustainable biofuel.

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In addition to testing the use of biofuel aboard Navigator of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is set to debut the cruise industry’s first hybrid-powered ship in summer 2023, as part of Silversea Cruises’ newest class of ships, the Nova class.

The company is also working to reduce emissions while at the port by investing in shore power on its ships and collaborating with key cruise ports for its use.

In 2021, Royal Caribbean Group signed an agreement to bring shore power to PortMiami, which will enable ships to use electricity at the port instead of burning fuel.

The company also is introducing a new zero-energy cruise terminal in the Port of Galveston, Texas, that builds on its sustainable design efforts and will be a LEED-Gold-certified facility.