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Royal Caribbean to retrofit scrubbers on 19 RCI, Celebrity ships

Anne Kalosh
Kulovaara - a retrofit project of this size and complexity unprecedented for Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. plans to retrofit 19 ships with scrubbers manufactured by Alfa Laval of Sweden and Wärtsilä of Finland, with additional companies being hired to execute the installations. Thirteen Royal Caribbean International ships and six Celebrity Cruises vessels will be retrofitted during scheduled drydocks and while in service.

Preliminary work has begun on several of the vessels, however most retrofits will take place between 2015 and 2017. Each installation will stretch approximately eight months.

The systems are expected to remove more than 97% of the sulfur dioxide emissions generated by the ships' diesel engines. 

The move positions Royal Caribbean ahead of International Maritime Organization Emission Control Area standards, and will ensure compliance with existing European Union standards. Additionally, the decision to install the systems instead of switching to low sulfur fuel will ensure the ships can be compliant everywhere they sail since availability of lower-sulfur fuels is limited.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has been involved in the development, testing and planning for the use of scrubber technology since 2010. Two newbuilds that entered service this year, RCI's Quantum of the Seas and TUI Cruises' Mein Schiff 3, were among the first cruise ships to be built with scrubber systems.

RCI's Liberty of the Seas has been operating one of its six engines with a retrofitted system for two years.

'{Advanced emission purification] technology for maritime vessels is very new, and we expect that by utilizing multiple technological solutions to accommodate the differences among our ships, additional development will ultimately help industrialize AEP technology even more, which will benefit not only RCL but also the larger maritime industry,' said Adam Goldstein, president and chief operating officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

The company said it faced significant challenges to install the systems on its existing ships because some pieces can be as large as a school bus, and an entire system entails additional operating weight of several hundred tons of equipment and liquids.

'A retrofit project of this size and complexity—and the scale and intricacy of the research, planning, and design required—is unprecedented for our company, and has required a very systematic process and involved the world's leading expertise in this field,' said Royal Caribbean evp maritime Harri Kulovaara.

'In addition to the teamwork it takes within our own company to execute a program of this magnitude and make all the necessary process improvements, the collaboration with government agencies has been key,' Goldstein added. He said that working with the fleets' flag states, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Coast Guard and Transport Canada to explore technology development has been critical.

Anticipated costs for the scrubber program have been estimated and included in RCL’s capital expenditure and capacity guidance.