First LNG Cruise Ship Is No ‘Breakthrough’
Vacationers sailing on the world’s largest cruise line may want to congratulate themselves that their holidays are a little bit cleaner for the environment and climate than before. But they’ll be well advised to think twice.
Miami-based Carnival Corporation, which transports 10 million passengers a year, has signed an agreement with global fossil giant Shell to supply marine liquid natural gas (LNG) to a fleet of new cruise ships designed to burn the fuel instead of diesel, the company said in a release. Most freight vessels burn even dirtier Bunker C refining residue as fuel.
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Several ships in Carnival’s variously branded cruise fleets already burn LNG for shore-side power, the company says. But two new ships equipped to use LNG for their main propulsion will join its fleet in 2019, serving northwest European and Mediterranean cruise routes.
The company boasts that the vessels mark “an industry first and an environmental breakthrough that will improve air quality with cleaner emissions and produce the most efficient ships in company history.” Five more LNG vessels have been ordered for delivery between 2020 and 2022.
The “breakthrough” deserves close scrutiny, however. Natural gas supply chains are plagued with leaks of methane—a high-potency greenhouse gas—that by some calculations present a greater threat to the global climate than coal.
Moreover, slightly lower emissions—if they in fact exist—are a small improvement in a tourism choice that Slate senior writer Will Oremus, describing the first cruise ship to transit the newly ice-free Northwest Passage this summer, colourfully denounced as: “an abomination, a massive, diesel-burning, waste-dumping, ice-destroying, golf-ball-smacking middle finger to what remains of the planet, courtesy of precisely 1,089 of its richest and most destructive inhabitants.”