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Icon of the Seas: World’s largest cruise ship sets sail from Miami

On its inaugural journey, the largest cruise ship in the world sailed from Miami, Florida, but methane emissions from the ship have raised concerns.

There are 20 decks on the 365-meter (1,197-foot) Icon of the Seas, which can accommodate up to 7,600 guests. The Royal Caribbean Group is the owner. The ship is leaving on a seven-day Caribbean island-hopping excursion.

World's largest cruise ship
World’s largest cruise ship


Environmentalists fear that the ship fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) may release airborne methane, which is dangerous. The ship, registered in the Bahamas, features six water slides and seven swimming pools. It was built at a shipyard in Turku, Finland.

It was constructed for $2 billion (£1.6 billion) and has over 40 eateries, lounges, and bars.

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Although LNG burns more cleanly than traditional marine fuels such as fuel oil, there is a risk that some gas escapes, causing methane to leak into the atmosphere.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

“It’s a step in the wrong direction,” Bryan Comer, director of the Marine Programme at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

“We would estimate that using LNG as a marine fuel emits over 120% more life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than marine gas oil,” he said.

Earlier this week, the ICCT released a report arguing that methane emissions from LNG-fueled ships were higher than current regulations assumed.

World's largest cruise ship
World’s largest cruise ship


A powerful greenhouse gas, methane in the atmosphere traps 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide over 20 years. Cutting these emissions is seen as crucial to slowing down global warming.

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Royal Caribbean says the Icon of the Seas is 24% more energy efficient than required by the International Maritime Organization for modern ships. The company plans to introduce a net-zero ship by 2035.

The cruise industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism, with young people in particular interested in cruise holidays, according to the trade body Cruise Lines International Association.

It said that the cruise industry contributed $75bn (£59bn) to the global economy in 2021.

On Thursday, Argentina’s World Cup winning captain Lionel Messi, who currently plays for Inter Miami, took part in the cruise ship’s naming ceremony. He was seen placing a football on a specially built stand to trigger the traditional “good luck” breaking of a champagne bottle against the vessel’s bow.


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