The world's largest cruise ship is set to sail from Miami, Florida, on its maiden voyage, amid concerns about the ship's methane emissions.
The 365-metre (1,197 ft) Icon of the Seas has 20 decks and can accommodate a maximum of 7,600 passengers on board. It is owned by the Royal Caribbean Group.
The ship embarks on a seven-day island hopping cruise in the tropics.
But environmental experts warn that the LNG-powered ship will leak harmful methane into the air.
Reuters quoted Brian Comer, director of the marine program at the International Council on Clean Transportation, as saying, “It is a step in the wrong direction.”
“We estimate that the use of LNG as a marine fuel results in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of more than 120% greater than marine gas oil,” he said.
LNG burns cleaner than traditional marine fuels such as fuel oil, but there is a risk of leakage.
Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, traps 80 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Reducing these emissions is seen as crucial to slowing 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 ship by 2035.
On Thursday, Lionel Messi, captain of Argentina's World Cup-winning national team, who currently plays for Inter Miami, participated in the ship's naming ceremony. He was seen placing a football on a specially built platform to encourage breaking a traditional “good luck” champagne bottle on the ship's bow.
The cost of building the Icon of the Seas was $2 billion (£1.6 billion). It now features seven pools, six water slides and more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges.
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