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Seas’ Icon: Departure of the Largest Cruise Ship in the World from Miami

The largest cruise ship in the world, Icon of the Seas, embarked on its inaugural journey from Miami, Florida, raising concerns about its methane emissions. Owned by the Royal Caribbean Group, the vessel, measuring 365 meters (1,197 feet) in length with 20 decks, can accommodate up to 7,600 passengers. As it embarks on a seven-day Caribbean island-hopping voyage, environmentalists warn that the liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered ship poses a risk of emitting harmful methane into the air.

Built in Turku, Finland, and registered in the Bahamas, the $2 billion (£1.6 billion) ship features seven swimming pools, six water slides, and over 40 restaurants, bars, and lounges. Despite LNG being a cleaner fuel than traditional marine options, concerns arise from the potential for gas leakage, contributing to methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas that is more impactful than carbon dioxide.

Bryan Comer, the director of the Marine Programme at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), expressed reservations, stating that LNG usage as a marine fuel could emit over 120% more life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than marine gas oil. The ICCT recently released a report challenging assumptions about methane emissions from LNG-fueled ships, asserting that they may be higher than current regulations anticipate.

Royal Caribbean contends that the Icon of the Seas is 24% more energy-efficient than the International Maritime Organization’s modern ship requirements. The company aims to introduce a net-zero emissions ship by 2035. The cruise industry, particularly popular among young people, is a rapidly growing tourism sector, contributing $75 billion (£59 billion) to the global economy in 2021, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

Argentina’s football star Lionel Messi, currently playing for Inter Miami, participated in the ship’s naming ceremony on Thursday, triggering the traditional “good luck” breaking of a champagne bottle against the vessel’s bow. The Icon of the Seas, weighing 250,800 tonnes and costing €1.65 billion ($1.79 billion; £1.41 billion), will make stops at Saint Kitts and Nevis and Charlotte Amalie in the US Virgin Islands during its maiden voyage.

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