Some challenges are unpredictable – hurricanes, geopolitics – and some are easier to foresee. It is clear that building the world’s first LNG-powered cruise ships is no simple task. But LNG offers a huge opportunity to all of us involved in cruising, and helping to lead the industry’s transition to LNG is a milestone not only for Carnival Maritime and Costa Group but the whole Carnival Corporation.
Why are we focused on LNG? Ultimately, for us this is about protecting the environment and biodiversity we are operating in, because the health and vitality of the oceans and areas through which we travel are absolutely essential to our business. On top of that, LNG is an economic, clean and safe marine fuel with increasing global availability. It complies with existing and scheduled emissions requirements while providing the opportunity to significantly reduce particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions. By building new ships that will be powered by LNG while in port and at sea, we believe we are setting ourselves up to take advantage of these benefits.
There are technical challenges, of course. Natural gas requires a larger tank volume than conventional fuel, so we are working with Meyer Werft to optimise the design of the ships to best utilise space in engine rooms. Safety is of course always a prime focus. The fuel will be stored in three type C tanks at a working pressure from 0.5 to 1 bar. These tanks will be located in their own hold spaces, with double-wall pipes used for gas lines and gas control valves in their own safe spaces.
Some technical challenges are bigger than the ship itself, the biggest being infrastructure. Port infrastructure is improving all the time, and we are actively working with ports around the world to ensure reliable supply. LNG bunkering facilities and terminals are currently being developed in Europe, for example our partner Shell Oil’s new LNG bunker vessel in Rotterdam. We hope that by helping to establish LNG as a trusted power source and to develop the infrastructure needed to use it, we will make it more of a viable option for everybody.
Training is another area we are focusing on, to ensure that the crew that will operate these new LNG-powered vessels are well prepared and have all the necessary experience. We are installing an LNG simulator in our CSMART training facility in Almere in the Netherlands, where we can run our officers through all types of scenarios in a safe and controlled environment. RINA also regularly supports us in providing training to our employees.
In all these matters – technical challenges, infrastructure, training – we cannot work alone. For us it is vital to work together with the whole cruise industry to develop industry-wide standards. Only then can we move forward with a unified approach to make the use of LNG as a marine fuel a global reality. For the cruise industry, the first cruise ships to be powered at sea by LNG represent a major environmental and technical breakthrough.
Another global reality we are all facing, and in which Carnival Maritime is excited to participate, is the booming Asian cruise industry. China is the world’s fastest growing and now second largest cruise market. Our two new builds, Costa Venezia (2019) and her sister ship (2020), are specifically designed to offer the best possible experience to Chinese passengers. Our Marine Operations team in Shanghai supports the Costa Asia fleet, and we will work with our partners across the region to build a robust ecosystem for the sustained development of China's cruise industry.
We couldn’t make such progress in challenging new areas like LNG and the Asian market without the support of classification societies. They review, assess and approve all the ship's plans and drawings and are involved in the alternative design process for all existing and new building vessels. Our relationship with RINA has been strong for decades, and RINA will classify all our upcoming new builds – AIDAnova, Costa Smeralda and Costa Venezia – including LNG equipment and certification.
The type of diversity I describe above, and the opportunity to really make an impact, is what I enjoy most about my role in Carnival Maritime. When we talk about the tough stuff – fuel prices, smarter strategies for repair and maintenance – that’s when I get excited. All the teams must work together, all the cogs must be carefully balanced and interlocked. To create something as beautiful as our cruise ships and help keep them in shape is a great feeling.