Li-ion batteries coming to Carnival cruise ship

AIDA Cruises, the German division of the world’s largest cruise line, will be installing a lithium-ion battery system from Canada’s Corvus Energy in a pilot program to explore the electrification of the cruising industry. The system will go into operation in 2020.

It is unclear from the company’s news release whether the batteries will be used to help propel the ship or only to provide power for its general operations using stored electricity from onshore sources.

Batteries are charged from shore

Since 2000, every ship built for AIDA Cruises has included “cold ironing” or shore power capabilities. This enables the boat to connect directly into the land-based electrical grid while in port rather than generating electricity from its fossil fuel engines.

This is a significant advance. According to the company an AIDA ship spends 40% of its operating time in port. Maritime Executive reports that “By the end of 2020, 12 of AIDA’s 14 ships will be able to use shore power where available”.

Presumably this new system will mean that the ship’s batteries can be charged from land and thereby also reduce the need for the ship’s fossil fuel systems to generate electricity while out of port.

Norwegian/Scandinavian ships leading the way in electrification

A futuristic electric ferry sails in the fjords of NorwayIt is encouraging to see batteries and electrification being initiated for huge cruise ships. Norway is definitely leading the way, with battery and electric/hybrid ferries already introduced, and Corvus Energy is supplying the world’s largest ship battery for a Norwegian cruise ship but these vessels are frankly small in size compared to the ships in the Carnival fleet.

The AIDA division is a leader in reducing the carbon and general environmental impact of large cruise ships. In 2018 they launched the 6,600 passenger AIDAnova, the world’s first cruise ship operating entirely on low-emission LNG – liquid natural gas. AIDA will put two more LNG vessels into service by 2023.

Michael Thamm of Carnival said: “Our goal is the emissions-neutral ship operation. The electrification of our ships is another important milestone on this path.” Mr. Thamm is Group CEO of Costa Cruises, Carnival’s Italian brand, which is next in line to receive the battery system.

The AIDA division has a “Green Cruising Strategy” that covers all aspects of its operations including things like plastic waste reduction and has earned the Blue Angel ecolabel from the German Federal Government and received the Green Controlling Award from the Peter Horvath Foundation for its efforts and advances.

As part of the strategy AIDA is also exploring the possibilities of CO2-free production of liquefied gas from renewable sources and using fuel cells in cruise shipping. The first on board fuel cell test is scheduled in 2021.

Still a long way to go in reducing emissions

While all of this is of course welcome news, there is still a long way to go in reducing the impact of the cruise ship industry on the atmosphere and environment.

In response to the battery program announcement, Kendra Ulrich, the Senior Shipping Campaigner at Stand.earth, issued the following statement:

The global shipping industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than major industrial nations such as Germany and Canada, and the cruise sector has an important role to play as a leader in technological innovation.

We applaud Carnival Corporation for taking the lead in developing zero-emission cruising technology.

Despite today’s positive announcement, Carnival Corporation still fuels nearly all of its ships with one of the dirtiest fossil fuels available — heavy fuel oil. We hope Carnival will rapidly implement its hydrogen fuel cell and battery power technologies throughout the rest of its global fleet.

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