The world's largest cruise ship has set sail from Miami, Florida, on its maiden voyage amid concerns about methane emissions from the ship.
The 365-meter-long “Icon of the Seas” ship has 20 decks and can accommodate a maximum of 7,600 passengers on board. It is owned by the Royal Caribbean Group.
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The ship will embark on a seven-day island hopping voyage in the tropics.
But environmental experts warn that the ship, powered by liquefied natural gas, will release harmful methane into the air.
“It's a step in the wrong direction,” said Brian Comer, director of the marine program at the International Council on Clean Transport (ICCT), quoted by Reuters news agency.
“We estimate that using LNG as a marine fuel emits 120% more greenhouse gases during its life cycle than marine diesel,” he said.
Earlier this week, the ICCT published a report, arguing that methane emissions from LNG-powered ships were higher than current regulations assume.
LNG burns cleaner than traditional marine fuels such as fuel oil, but there is a risk of leakage.
Atmospheric methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that traps 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
Reducing these emissions is crucial to reducing global warming.
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson was quoted in the media as saying that Icon of the Seas is 24% more energy efficient than what the International Maritime Organization requires for modern ships.
The company plans to introduce a net-zero emission vessel by 2035.
On Thursday, World Cup-winning Argentine captain Lionel Messi, who currently plays for Inter Miami, participated in the ship's naming ceremony.
He was seen placing a football on a specially designed platform to bring about the traditional “good luck” of breaking a bottle of champagne at the bow of the ship.
The cost of building the Icon of the Seas is $2 billion. It now features seven pools, six slides and more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges.
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