CruiseNorwegian Cruise Line pushes back the release of upcoming Prima-class ships to make newbuilds more "methanol-ready".

NCL's future Prima-class ships will go bigger and greener

Two of four upcoming ships are "methanol-ready" as a step toward Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' net zero carbon goals.
Two of four upcoming ships are "methanol-ready" as a step toward Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' net zero carbon goals.

Norwegian Cruise Line will slow the release of its last four Prima class ships as the brand builds them bigger and equips the last two to use green methanol as an alternative fuel, executives said during Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' recent Q4 earnings call.

The third and fourth Prima ships will have a 10% increase in gross tonnage compared to the first ship in the class, making them around 157,000 gross tons. Those Prima ships are expected to be delivered in 2025 and 2026, respectively.

The fifth and sixth Prima-class ships will be built with approximately a 20% increase in gross tonnage over the Norwegian Prima (142,500 gross tons), which entered service last August. This move could make them the largest ships in the NCL fleet at about 171,000 gross tons, which will also accommodate equipment to make them "methanol-ready" with the dual capacity to run on diesel and methanol. The ships are scheduled to be released in 2027 and 2028, respectively.

"In addition to having the ship larger to house the methanol tanks, we're able to get more scale on those as well, more passenger count," said Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Harry Sommer.

Additional modifications will be needed to enable the use of both methanol and diesel, but the action is an exciting step toward the goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions, said Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio. The investment sets up NCL to use methanol when the fuel is more widely available during the life of the ship.

"Going green is not free. There is a cost to it, but we think this is a good cost," said Mark Kempa, the cruise company's CFO.

NCLH hinted in a Q3 earnings call that it might modify newbuilds to make them more environmentally sustainable after announcing supply chain issues had pushed back the expected release of the rest of the Prima class.

Cruise lines' fuel strategies vary

Few large lines have publicly committed to constructing their newbuilds to use methanol, which is not yet widely available. Viking plans to use hydrogen fuel cells on two of its oceangoing ships due out in 2026 and 2027 and Explora Journeys is planning to power two of its ships with liquefied natural gas (LNG) and hydrogen, with those ships due out in 2027 and 2028.

Many cruise lines are building their ships to use LNG, which emits less carbon than diesel but is considered a stepping stone to more environmentally friendly fuels. In the past year, several cruise companies have explored the use of biofuels that could be used in diesel engines. Costa has begun working with a methanol producer to use methanol as a marine fuel.

Source: Travel Weekly

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