Environmental protection measures are being introduced across 19 ships in the Royal Caribbean Cruises’ fleet.


Advanced emissions purification (AEP) systems – commonly known as scrubbers – will be retrofitted to remove more than 97% of the sulphur dioxide emissions generated by the ships’ diesel engines.


Installation will take place on 13 Royal Caribbean International ships and six from Celebrity Cruises from January during scheduled dry-dockings and while vessels are in service.


Most of the work will take place between 2015 and 2017 with each installation taking approximately eight months.


The company admitted facing “significant challenges” to accommodate the systems on its existing ships – some pieces of which can be as large as a school bus, an entire system having an operational weight of several hundred tons of equipment and liquids.


However, the move will position it ahead of all forthcoming International Maritime Organisation emission control area emissions standards, and will ensure compliance with existing European Union standards, according to the company.


Anticipated costs have been estimated and included in Royal Caribbean’s capital expenditure and capacity guidance, the company said.


The decision to install AEP systems instead of switching to a fuel with a lower sulfur content will also ensure the vessels can be compliant everywhere they sail, as availability of lower-sulfur fuels is limited.


Two newly built ships that entered into service this year, Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas and Tui Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3, were among the first to be built with AEP systems installed during initial construction.


Royal Caribbean International’s Liberty of the Seas has been operating one of its six engines with a retrofitted AEP system for two years.


AEP systems “scrub” exhaust gases by injecting high volumes of water spray into the exhaust stream, removing more than 97% of sulfur dioxide emissions.


Rival Carnival Corporation is also developing and installing exhaust gas cleaning technology designed to mitigate the impact of emission control area coming into effect in January.


Royal Caribbean Cruise president and chief operating officer Adam Goldstein said: “AEP technology for maritime vessels is very new, and we expect that by utilising multiple technological solutions to accommodate the differences among our ships, additional development will ultimately help industrialise AEP technology even more, which will benefit not only RCL but also the larger maritime industry.”


Maritime executive vice president Harri Kulovaara said: “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.”