Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2023

44 COVER STORY Turning innovative ideas into reality is rarely an easy task, but it is particularly challenging when building a new cruise ship. This has certainly been the case for Royal Caribbean Group (RCG), Finnish shipbuilder Meyer Turku, architecture firm Wilson Bulter and the multiple other partners involved in building Royal Caribbean International’s newest prototype, the 250,800gt Icon of the Seas. When the design process began around six years ago, some of the solutions needed to make ideas reality simply did not exist, but just months from delivery in January 2025, Icon of the Seas is almost complete and encompasses a host of innovations. The project has required RCG’s in-house teams and partners across its supply chain to continually push boundaries. “Building these complex ships is a difficult journey,” says Harri Kulovaara, executive vice president of maritime and new building at RCG. “It is not a straight line. It is how you work together with the best partners and best minds with a clear goal. All the hard work is basically behind the visual panels: the machinery, the air conditioning, electrical cables, technical execution, and more. This is the biggest and most complex maritime project outside the military and oil and gas industries.” Icon of the Seas represents a major milestone in RCG’s journey to building a carbon-neutral ship by 2035, says Jason Liberty, the corporation’s president and CEO. “Icon gets us from the first innings to the second innings [of nine],” he says, using a baseball term. “On decarbonisation we have very best minds in the maritime world focused on emerging technology to find out how we transition to an energy platform of the future.” The newbuild will be the first Royal Caribbean International ship to be powered by LNG, hence the brand’s choice to partner with Meyer Turku, which has constructed LNG carriers in the past. “It took us over 10 years to make it possible to have LNG on a cruise ship,” says Tim Meyer, CEO of Meyer Turku. “We were not just developing the technology but the regulations, which we did together with class society, DNV.” The ship will be equipped with two 3.7 tonne LNG tanks in separate compartments and six Wärtsilä dual-fuel engines, housed in two separate engine rooms. Whilst the ship will use LNG as the main fuel used (bunkering weekly in CocoCay in The Bahamas), it will use marine gas oil (MGO) as a backup (bunkering in Florida’s PortMiami). The vessel can also hook up to shore power in port wherever it is provided. When asked about how LNG stacks up pricewise with MGO, RCG’s vice president and head of environmental, social and governance Nick Rose says: “When you account for the energy you get out of LNG, it has a higher energy density (49 joules per MMBtu/14MWh), it is roughly on a financial par with MGO (42 joules per MMBtu/11MWh). Volumewise it gets complicated. LNG takes up When Icon of the Seas takes to the water in January 2024, it will be the culmination of some of the best partners and minds in the business. The vessel will also showcase innovative firsts for owners Royal Caribbean Group and for the cruise industry. Susan Parker reports A testbed for technology