Cruise operators are finding imaginative ways to attract new passengers: special cruises for families, cruises for shoppers and even cruises for chocolate lovers.

And now they are making cruising cleaner and cooler, by powering their ships with super-chilled natural gas.

Carnival Corporation, the world’s biggest cruise operator, has commissioned two cruise ships that will run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) for holidays in northern Europe and the western Mediterranean from 2019.

“These will be exceptionally efficient ships, and the first ever to be powered by LNG, which shows our commitment to improving air quality," says Tom Strang, senior vice president of maritime affairs for Carnival Corporation.

Carnival Corporation has ordered another five LNG-fuelled ships for delivery over the next six years, while Swiss-based MSC Cruises has said it could add four gas cruisers within a decade.

The new cruise liners are an important part of a wider trend towards using natural gas instead of oil-based fuel to power ships, in order to reduce sulphur, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions. There are already other types of ship powered by LNG, ranging from tug boats to ocean-going tankers.

Cooling natural gas to -162° Celsius shrinks it by around 600 times, which will allow the new cruise ships to carry enough LNG to generate all the power they need, both in port and at sea.

Shell will provide the LNG for Carnival’s first two ships, which will each weigh more than 180,000 tonnes. The LNG will be delivered by special refuelling ships.

Carnival Corporation’s AIDA Cruises launched the world’s first cruise ship able to use natural gas to generate electricity while in port in early 2016. The AIDAprima is fuelled with Shell LNG from trucks on the dockside, as it cruises around northern European ports including Hamburg in Germany, Southampton in the UK and Le Havre in France.

Yet despite these high-profile moves by cruise companies, LNG remains an emerging transport fuel. To make the use of LNG more widespread, energy and logistics companies need to work together to ensure the supply infrastructure, and the trucks and ships that will use it, are in place at the same time.

"Gas suppliers and transport companies need to continue to work together to make transport more sustainable," said Lauran Wetemans, Shell’s General Manager Downstream LNG. “The powering of cruise ships by LNG is a great example of what we can achieve.”


By Dan Fineren

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