Fleet of LNG cruise ships anticipated at PortMiami
PortMiami expects an influx of liquefied natural gas-powered cruise ships to arrive through 2027, and Miami-Dade commissioners want Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s office to look at how best to accommodate the new vessels’ needs.
Commissioners in committee this month unanimously advanced a resolution by Rebeca Sosa that would direct Ms. Levine Cava’s administration to report within four months on the port’s current readiness to welcome the new ships, what else needs to be done, what the cost to do those things is and the relative environmental benefits of liquefied natural gas (LNG) compared to other alternative fuels.
The item goes to a final vote by the full Miami-Dade Commission June 2.
Industry leader Carnival Corp. accepted delivery of cruise ship Mardi Gras in December from Finnish manufacturer Meyer Turku. The plan then was for the vessel to enter service in April as the first LNG-powered cruise ship to operate in North America.
According to a memo accompanying Ms. Sosa’s resolution, that remains the plan. Carnival’s second LNG-fueled ship, the Celebration, is to debut from PortMiami in November 2022 at the company’s expanded Cruise Terminal F, which broke ground in January.
As of March, more than two dozen LNG-powered cruise ships were on order to be delivered within six years. Buyers include Carnival, Royal Caribbean Group, MSC Cruises and Disney Cruise Line.
Ship operators are looking at LNG as something of a midway point between traditional oil-heavy “bunker” fuel and a means to power their vessels with zero emissions.
LNG ships emit about 20% to 30% less carbon dioxide than traditional marine fuels while offering the same propulsion power. A 2018 study by the University of Texas at Austin found that LNG significantly eliminates particulate matter from vessels’ exhaust and cuts sulfur emissions by 99% and nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 85%.
However, scientists have raised concerns over leakage of methane, a major component of LNG that is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, according to the US Department of Energy, and over time could have a greater environmental impact than traditional fuels.
A full transition from conventional fuel to carbonless power is still a way off from reality for the maritime industry, which altogether emits about 3% of all greenhouse gasses on the planet – a number that will rise another 1.5% if the industry continues to grow unabated, according to the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency within the United Nations.
The cost to zero emissions is high. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Martin Stopford, president of London-based shipping analysis and data management group Clarkson Research, told a shipping decarbonization forum this year that moving to noncarbon-based fuels could cost seafaring industries more than $3 trillion combined.
The cruise industry alone, he said, could pay upwards of $357 billion.
In April, the World Bank released a report advising governments against backing LNG and that countries should “avoid new public policy that supports LNG as a bunker fuel, reconsider existing policy support and continue to regulate methane emissions.”
Through various agreements with its cruise partners, including a 62-year, multibillion-dollar deal to homeport cruise ships from MSC, PortMiami is contractually obligated to provide LNG accommodations.
PortMiami also has assembled a working group to study how to safely operate LNG activities at the harbor.