Fleetwide Retrofits Advance RCL Sustainability Goals

Portfolio of green technologies is creating shipboard energy efficiencies

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Guests may not notice the hundreds of energy-saving technologies embedded on Royal Caribbean ships, ranging from AC chillers and LED lighting to waste heat recovery systems. But an ever-increasing portfolio of proven shipboard energy projects is spurring the corporate quest for a greener fleet.

The RCL Corporate Energy Program was launched as an aggressive, multi-million-dollar investment to cut carbon emissions and increase fuel efficiencies fleetwide. Since 2014, the Global Marine Operations team has installed hundreds of energy-saving upgrades and new technologies in existing and newbuild ships.

“We have reduced our emission by 37 percent from our 2005 baseline across the fleet,” says Anshul Tuteja, RCL’s associate vice president for Global Fleet Optimization. “That’s massive from an industry perspective.”

As onboard efficiencies are introduced, elements of pollution are also reduced because of a simple formula:  less fuel burned = less emissions. Almost 500 projects have been completed across an array of disciplines including electrical, mechanical, hydrodynamic, and HVAC upgrades.

One of the most common retrofits is the Variable Frequency Device. The VFD reduces energy consumption in air conditioning units, engine rooms, and galley ventilation units by controlling pumps, fans, and motors so that output matches demand.

AC Chiller upgrades are showing dramatic performance results with more efficient, multi-modular systems that slash a chiller’s energy consumption by 30 to 50 percent.

Another energy-saving technology is waste heat recovery. “It’s basically free to use,” says Tuteja.  “We use all possible waste streams on board, even recycling waste heat to heat water for everything from guest jacuzzis to bathroom showerheads.”

The RCL fleet also uses waste heat to produce potable water from seawater on board. If the waste heat is insufficient, the demand for daily water production is met through an alternate energy-saving technology called reverse osmosis, which desalinates the seawater using permeable membranes.  “That way we don’t have to burn fuel to produce or bunker potable water,” says Tuteja.

A newly adopted procedure makes each element a pilot program, first installing new equipment on just one or two ships. Once a new technology is validated and projected savings are assured, it is used across the fleet.

“It’s not always that we pick up technology off-the-shelf,” says Tuteja. “We also co-develop with vendors to tailor retrofits and further develop efficiencies, learning with each installation to improve the next.”

Vendors are required to have skin in the game by agreeing to see their earnings reduced to match any shortfalls in their stated performance goals. It’s a “prove and proceed” process fundamentally based on data-driven decision making.

“We remotely collect the data from the ships to verify the savings of all our retrofits,” says Patrik Dahlgren, senior vice president of Global Marine Operations. “If the data proves that the technology is working, we proceed. Based on that data, we further optimize the operations and design.”

Tuteja says the journey pursuit for a more energy-efficient fleet is “relentless,” and the search to improve efficiencies are always in the works.

“We have already invested hundreds of millions of dollars into these projects. A hundred projects are currently in progress, and a hundred more are in the pipeline over the next few years,” he says. “It’s a serious investment and one that will continue to produce both economic and environmental gains.”