Four Green Methanol Ships Expected to Operate in Alaska by 2032

Sapphire Princess

The Pacific Northwest to Alaska Green Corridor project is preparing a feasibility study to explore the operation of green methanol-powered cruise ships in the region.

The project’s goal is to assess the feasibility of four cruise vessels operating full Alaskan itineraries on green methanol by 2032, with at least one ship in service in the market by 2030.

Preliminary details of the planned research, which is being conducted by the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, were shared during a webinar on Thursday.

The online presentation was conducted by port and industry representatives, including Stephanie Jones Stebbins, Managing Director of the Maritime Division at the Port of Seattle and Bob Alton, Senior Director of Technical Programs and Decarbonization at Princess Cruises.

Other speakers included Vesa Koivumaa, Head of Customer Delivery at Wartsila; and Mark Stark, Sustainability Advisor, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping.

“There are a number of alternative fuel options on the table,” said Alton. “They all have different opportunities and challenges. For the cruise sector, our bunkering strategy does afford considerable opportunity for fuel flexibility.

“The emphasis on flexibility is a high priority as we move forward and better understanding of green methanol supports a key opportunity presented by this important initiative”

Alton said they were working to better understand methanol supply, storage and operational considerations.

“Methanol comes with its own unique challenges around handling, storage and consumption,” Alton said. “That in turn impacts the vessel range, and this only increases our focus on energy efficiency.”

Alton said the company was considering retrofit upgrades and was working with technical partners.

“We need to realize a safe, fuel-flexible platform,” he said, noting that would also include biodiesel.

“A well-designed retro-installation on a modern cruise ship does have the potential to achieve fuel flexibility in an incrementally shorter time frame,” he noted.

According to the speakers, interested parties are currently in the final phases of discussion to confirm the project objectives and begin technical work.

The research is expected to evaluate the demand, production, and availability of green methanol for use as a maritime fuel in the region, the delivery of cruise ships able to run on green methanol and the readiness for bunkering of green methanol at two homeports: Seattle and Vancouver.

The study also aims to provide an analysis of consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for cruises on green-methanol-powered vessels.

Stark explained that the first vessel running on the fuel could be in Alaskan waters by 2030, with at least three additional ships expected to join by 2032.

The project’s ultimate goal is to accelerate the decarbonization of cruise operations between Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.

Ports and communities taking part in the Green Corridor project include the Port of Seattle, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and the Alaskan port communities of Haines, Juneau, Sitka, and Skagway.

The project is also backed by cruise lines, including the Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

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