Why MSC Cruises decided against LNG for the Seascape

As pressure mounts for the cruise industry to reduce its carbon footprint amid climate change, many lines are building ships that use liquefied natural gas (LNG) to power their engines. But not all. 

MSC Cruises’ newest ship, the MSC Seascape, was built with new tools to improve energy efficiency, wastewater treatment and manage garbage and recycling products to improve its sustainability. However, the ship that was named in New York on Dec. 7 uses marine gas oil, a fossil fuel with carbon emissions that several lines are gravitating away from. 

Many lines are shifting to LNG, commonly referred to as a transition fuel. LNG results in 95% less particulate matter in emissions, almost eliminates sulfur emissions and cuts down on nitrogen emissions by 85% to reduce greenhouse gases by 20%. However, it still produces carbon dioxide (CO2).

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Because LNG requires the use of large circular storage tanks with thick walls to keep the liquefied gas under pressure and extremely cold, it was not commercially viable for the fourth and final ship of the Seaside class to be retrofit to use LNG, said Linden Coppel, MSC Cruises’ vice president of sustainability. 

“Even though it’s liquefied, it still needs a greater volume storage and we also need completely different storage systems on board,” she said. 

MSC will begin using LNG on its new ships in the new World class. The first ship in the class, World Europa, is equipped to use LNG and marine gas oil, which gives MSC flexibility if it sails to a region without access to LNG. The ship will sail its maiden voyage from Doha on Dec. 20 before beginning a series of seven-night voyages from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

On the Seascape, MSC plans to explore the use of synthetic fuels or biofuels with a lower carbon footprint that can be used with the existing fuel system or consider future engine modifications to use green methanol or other energy sources, she said. 

“We’re past the stage now in our industry where there’s just going to be one type of fuel, one type of energy. Those days are gone,” Coppell said. 

MSC is not the only line that has debuted new ships this year using traditional marine fuels. Norwegian Cruise Line has opted against LNG for its initial Prima-class ships as it explores the use of biofuels. 

The Seascape includes two systems to manage emissions from the ship. One is an exhaust gas cleaning system and the other is a selective catalytic reactor. One system removes sulfur oxides and the other removes hydrogen oxides, said Coppel.

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