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RCI Is Taking The Plunge

While it has often been discussed, Royal Caribbean International (RCI) has become the first cruise ship operator to incorporate gas turbine propulsion on a large cruise ship. Until now, the use of gas turbine propulsion has been limited to naval vessels and smaller fast craft. However, the ever pioneering Royal Caribbean believes the GE units will give its ship many decided advantages. A technological shift resulting in 80 to 98 percent reductions in exhaust emissions and much lower levels of noise and vibration will take place in engine rooms of new cruise ships for Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises. Up to six of their Voyager and Millennium-class vessels will be the first cruise ships ever powered by General Electric's gas and steam turbines instead of diesel engines.

"We have designed these to be the most environmentally- sensitive cruise ships in the world," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. "This technology introduces a new era in cruise ship design and marks the first partnership between a major American technology company and foreign- flagged cruise lines." Each of the 85,000-ton ships, being constructed in France and Germany, will be equipped with a pair of GE Marine Engines' LM2500+ aeroderivative gas turbines and a single steam turbine instead of the four or five diesel engines used on modern cruise ships. On each cruise ship, gas turbines will drive generators which, in turn, provide electricity to propeller motors. Then a steam turbine recovers heat from the exhaust, providing energy for heating water and other electrical needs such as lighting. The first two Millennium ships for Celebrity Cruises are due in June 2000 and January 2001, and the first Voyager ship for Royal Caribbean International is due in February 2001. The company has options to build an additional three ships by 2003. Royal Caribbean, actively looking at turbine technology for several years, has worked alongside General Electric to develop a cruise ship application. GE Marine Engines' LM 2500 has performed successfully on a variety of cruisers, frigates, destroyers and patrol boats for more than two dozen international navies. The U.S. Navy has used gas-turbine technology for propulsion since the 1970s. Gas turbines use a more expensive fuel than diesel, but the environmental benefits of gas turbines outweigh the added fuel costs to a cruise line. GE Power Systems will install the power plants and will provide service under a 10-year agreement. "Turbine technology minimizes a ship's environmental impact by drastically reducing air emissions, sludge and oil waste," said William K. Reilly, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who serves on Royal Caribbean's Board of Directors and advises the company on its environmental operations.

Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd, has continually positioned his company at the leading edge. The most recent example is the announcement that the company will feaute GE gas turbines on several new vessels. "We have designed these to be the most environmentally-sensitive cruise ships in the world," he said.

"Emissions of nitrous oxide are lowered 80 percent and sulfur oxide 98 percent, resulting in much lower emissions than from typical diesel engines," Mr. Reilly added.

Harri Kulovaara, Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of Marine Operations, said the technology has several other advantages for cruise ships. "By utilizing the waste heat from the turbine's exhaust, we're able to produce a major portion of the electricity for ship services, from heating water to air-conditioning, and it eliminates the need for additional energydepleting machinery." Mr. Kulovaara described the turbine technology "more reliable than diesel," and added, "Another benefit for the cruise line is that it reduces the size of the maintenance crew along with reduced parts inventory." Passenger benefits include reduction of noise and vibration.

Since the machinery is very compact, much less space is required to house and maintain the turbines and related equipmen

 
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