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  • Sir Richard Branson’s newest venture, Virgin Voyages, will initiate the construction of the first of three new vessels in 2017. The ship, with a capacity of over 2,700 passengers and 1,150 crew, is due for delivery to PortMiami in 2020. All three ships, with at least one home-ported in PortMiami, are expected by 2022. The new ships will be fitted with Climeon Ocean, an energy system that transforms low-grade energy into clean electricity in what is seen as a cruise industry first. The clean energy system is predicted to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 5,400 tons per vessel per year.
  • US-based Viking Ocean Cruises has launched its first-ever Caribbean itinerary with an 11-day West Indies Explorer cruise package out of its winter port, San Juan. Its vessels will call at ports in the British Virgin Islands, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe, St Kitts, Sint Martin and the US Virgin Islands. Viking Ocean Cruises began in 2015 with its first ship, ‘Viking Star’, with a capacity of 930 passengers. It was joined by ‘Viking Sea’ in 2016 with ‘Viking Sky’, ‘Viking Sun’ and ‘Viking Spirit’ to follow through 2017 and 2018.
  • Carnival Cruise lines will increase its capacity in Florida from January 2018 by adding the 2,124-passenger ‘Carnival Miracle’ to join the 2,052-passenger ‘Carnival Paradise’. Both will operate year-round Caribbean cruises from Tampa. ‘Carnival Miracle’ will operate a seven-day Caribbean cruise out of Tampa. Before beginning the new service, Carnival Miracle will offer Panama Canal cruises.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises has placed orders for two 200,000 gt ships from Finnish shipbuilder Meyer Turku. These vessels, due to be delivered in 2022 and 2024, will be the first of a new generation of LNG-powered cruise ships under the name of Icon. The new ships are expected to accommodate some 5,000 passengers.


Incentives for greener vessels using Panama Canal

The original Panama Canal was built to save both time and fuel compared with going the long way round; and while the expanded canal will further lessen carbon dioxide emissions from transiting ships, a new initiative by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) called the Environmental Premium Ranking will reward vessels that are more energy-efficient and reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Software has been developed to calculate a vessel’s carbon dioxide emissions based on ship type, cargo volume and route. Vessels will be able to improve their position by means of a Customer Ranking System, based on indicators such as the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), the Environmental Ship Index and use of LNG fuel. The best-ranked vessels will get priority booking, allowing them to effectively jump the queue for transits. The new incentive system will begin on 1 January 2017.


Good figures for Panama Canal

The first figures from the expanded Panama Canal have been very good despite a global downturn in shipping. At the end of fiscal year 2016 the canal recorded its third-highest tonnage ever at 330.7 million Panama Canal tons. A total of 13,113 vessels transited the canal between 1 October 2015 and 30 September 2016. The expanded canal opened in June 2016 with 238 neopanamax (new panamax) vessels transiting in the first three months. The largest segment of the traffic – over 36 per cent – was containerships, followed by bulk carriers, tankers and vehicle carriers. The focus in 2017 will be on continuing to enhance the logistics infrastructure in Panama.


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