Cruise Holidays: Who’s Leading the Sustainable Sea Travel Fleet? | Sustainable business custodian


Few of the 25 million people enjoying the sea breeze on a cruise ship this year are likely to think about the air pollutants emitted by the ship.

Running primarily on heavy fuel oil, a mid-size cruise ship produces roughly the same volume of air pollutants – including greenhouse gases, sulfur, nitric oxides and particulates – as 5-meter cars traveling through the sea. same distance, estimates the German environmental NGO Nabu.

“The standards for the shipping industry are really low compared to what we can see in road transport,” says Dietmar Oeliger, environmental policy manager at Nabu. “For a long time, politics served him well. People didn’t care about open water emissions.

Most countries delegate responsibility for industry regulation to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), says Tristan Smith, an expert in shipping and climate change at University College London. He adds that many small countries do not have the resources to regulate it on their own and some choose not to restrict it – after all, the industry is a boon to local economies, attracting tourists and providing services. jobs.

Air pollution

New IMO legislation coming into effect in 2020 will require cruise ships to reduce their sulfur emissions by 3.5% to 0.5%. In order to stay within the limit, several cruise lines have installed purification technology on their ships, which uses seawater to wash the exhaust pipes. While this reduces the sulfur in the air, it instead puts it in the water, Oeliger explains. “You remove one problem, but create another. “

A better alternative would be to install emission reduction technology, such as in on-road vehicles, and switch from heavy fuel oil to cleaner marine or road diesel, or liquefied natural gas (LNG), Oeliger explains.

Several companies have already invested in ships powered by LNG. Royal Caribbean Cruises will launch its first fleet of LNG ships in 2022 and invest in fuel cell technology, which converts chemicals into electricity. Carnival Group, which owns Aida and the P&O lines, has also increased its investments in LNG.

But LNG is not without its problems. Smith explains that LNG is a high carbon fuel that does little CO2 reduction for ships. “In a decarbonizing world, LNG has no place as a short-term transitional marine fuel, and it will need to be replaced by true low-carbon fuels,” he said. .

Hybrid and wind

Alternative energy sources such as renewables and biofuels, as well as battery-powered ships, might be a better solution and some companies have started to explore these avenues. The Hurtigruten cruise liner has ordered a pair of hybrid-powered cruise ships, which will use a battery system to power them. Color Line also announced plans for a battery-powered plug-in hybrid.

The ports of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego also allow ships to plug into the area when moored, reducing air pollution for residents, although the lack of international standard plugs and High infrastructure costs are a barrier to mass deployment.

Meanwhile, Finnish cruise line Viking Line is exploring wind power, having partnered with energy company Norsepower to install a rotor sail system on an LNG-powered ship, helping to reduce emissions.

In addition to reducing fuel consumption and emissions, Fabian Lundgren, project manager and marine superintendent at Viking Line, believes the investment will give the company a competitive advantage. “In Northern Europe everyone thinks about the environment, so it’s also a good move for our marketing – I think people might choose us because of the rotor sails,” he says.

But the cost of investing in green technology is high for shipping lines, Lundgren adds, and if companies are forced to move too fast to comply with the law, “you can kill the cruise industry.”

Who will take the lead?

With low oil prices and fierce market competition, campaigners warn that cruise line environmental efforts are too limited. Marcie Keever, Oceans and Ships Program Director at Friends of the Earth, warns that despite companies’ sustainability commitments, “bad behavior” persists.

In December 2016, for example, Princess Cruises was fined a record US $ 40million (£ 33million) after being convicted of illegally dumping petroleum-contaminated waste and covering it up. .

Likewise, Aida, the Carnival cruise line that positions itself as an environmentally conscious company, has been criticized by Nabu, despite the NGO giving it the top spot in its annual cruise ship ranking.

There is a huge opportunity for cruise lines to improve their environmental policies and introduce cleaner technologies, says Oeliger.

Reducing pollution is not only an environmental problem, but also has a direct impact on the well-being of passengers, he adds. “[Cruise companies] are not shipping containers, they ship passengers and are responsible for their health, ”he said.

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