Roundtable: how can cruise lines reduce their environmental impact?

Adele Berti and  Joe Baker 10 February 2021 (Last Updated February 16th, 2021 09:15)

A return to sailing will give cruise operators to make their operations greener and more sustainable. In this roundtable, we reach out to industry experts to ask their opinion on what cruise lines can do to reduce their environmental impact.

Roundtable: how can cruise lines reduce their environmental impact?
In this roundtable we have asked what cruise liners can do to Credit: Maurício Mascaro.

The biggest cruise ships are effectively floating settlements, offering more entertainment, food and accommodation than ever before. Unfortunately, this ‘go big or go home’ mentality has sometimes pushed the industry into hot water, particularly with regards to its environmental impact.

This year, cruise lines need to get passengers back on board. It needs to make cruise a necessity for people who’ve been living without it. A survey in our office highlighted that most millennials want cruise companies to be held more accountable for their emissions. As cruise prepares to exit its scariest period ever, will operators step up to the plate?

To find out what steps the cruise industry needs to take, we gathered experts from both sides of the debate to ask a simple question: how can cruise lines reduce their environmental impact once sailing resumes?

Please note: experts’ opinions DO NOT represent the views of Future Cruise or any other expert included in this roundtable.  

 

Dan Hubbell, shipping emissions campaign manager at Ocean Conservancy

Cruise lines have a duty to their customers and the environment to reduce their impact post-pandemic and sailing can resume safely. Switching to truly green fuels like hydrogen or ammonia as they become available, rather than climate-damaging options like LNG, would dramatically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

Scrubbers are another area where cruises should steer clear on, or at a minimum look to fully closed-loop systems that store rather than open-loop ones that discharge scrubber effluent back into the ocean.

Finally, treating both sewage and greywater with properly functioning advanced water treatment systems should be a priority. Cruises take their passengers to some of the most beautiful places on earth, and when sailing resumes those aboard will feel better knowing they’re leaving nothing behind when they travel on.

 

Brian Salerno, senior vice president of maritime policy, Cruise Lines International Association

CLIA and our cruise line members are passionate about clean oceans and are committed to responsible tourism practices and environmental stewardship.

While cruise lines comprise far less than 1% of the global maritime community, the cruise industry works every day to advance its responsible tourism efforts. While much progress has been made, the cruise industry recognizes that continued and greater investment in research and development is critical in order to achieve the ultimate objective of zero carbon emissions across the global maritime fleet.

Last year, CLIA joined an array of partner associations in the maritime sector to put forth a proposal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to fund and establish a $5 billion Research and Development Board dedicated to working collaboratively across the maritime sector to identify—and in some cases, develop—the technologies and energy sources that will enable the cruise industry to pursue solutions that do not yet exist.

All of this is to say, even as cruise lines have worked to address the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry has remained focused on its commitment to preserving the air and oceans in which the industry operates. With over $23bn invested in ships with new technologies and cleaner fuels, substantial progress has been achieved and our cruise line members will continue to work diligently to meet rising expectations.

Cruising is one of the best ways to experience the world and CLIA and our cruise line members look forward to welcoming passengers back.

 

Roger Frizzell, chief communications officer, Carnival Corporation

At Carnival Corporation, our highest responsibility and top priorities are compliance, environmental protection and the health, safety and well-being of our guests, the people in the communities we visit, and our shipboard and shoreside employees. On this foundation, our company and nine global cruise line brands are committed to continuously enhancing our operations and environmental progress.

As an industry, we continue to work together on our shared commitment to reducing the global cruise fleet’s rate of carbon emissions by 40% over the next 10 years. At Carnival Corporation, we are committed to doing our part to achieve that goal while sharing in the International Maritime Organization’s vision for a carbon-free shipping industry.

We recently achieved key sustainability targets for the company and committed to new far-reaching goals that will carry us well beyond as we continue to support our environmental priorities with concrete actions and improvements.

This includes launching the world’s first cruise ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), the marine industry’s most advanced fuel technology; adding high-tech electrical shore power capabilities; expanded use of onboard Advanced Waste Water Treatment Systems; food waste bio-digester technology; and Advanced Air Quality Systems. We also have extensive initiatives already underway to significantly reduce single-use plastics and food waste on board our ships, and we are pursuing new sustainable solutions to power cruise ships to further reduce our environmental footprint, such as battery power storage systems and advanced fuel cell technology.

As we look toward the future, we will continue to work closely with the communities we visit, investing in new emerging technologies and initiatives to ensure sustainability is ingrained in all aspects of our business as we work towards achieving zero emissions over time while providing travellers with the world’s best vacation experience

 

 

Eamonn Ferrin, Norwegian Cruise Line VP and managing director, UK & Ireland

Sustainability has always been a cornerstone of our business at Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and will remain a key pillar as we look to amplify and innovate our practices and offering in the next years.

For instance, we established a dedicated Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) department in 2020 to enhance our Sail & Sustain Environmental Programme’s reach and impact. Offering support of key environmental initiatives, the ESG team ensures the coordination of our environmental agenda between departments as diverse as health, medical and safety to human resources, legal and even our supply chain.

As part of our Sail & Sustain programme, we are striving to minimise waste sent to landfill, reduce CO2 emissions, increase the use of sustainably sourced goods, and invest in emerging environmental technologies. As a result of our continuous efforts, the CDP, a global environmental non-profit that evaluates 9,600 companies worldwide annually, recently recognised us with a ‘B’ climate change score – improving on the previous year and higher than the Marine Transport sector average of ‘C’.

This follows on from NCL becoming the first major global cruise line to eliminate single-use plastic bottles onboard our fleet and private destinations following a partnership with JUST Water via JUST® Goods, Inc at the start of 2020. In addition, we recently announced a partnership with the Port of Southampton for its’ new terminal which will feature both Shore Power and Roof-Mounted Solar Power to provide clean, green renewable energy and further strengthen our commitment to the sustainable future for the category.

 

Ross A Klein, PhD, international expert on cruise industry and cruise tourism and professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland

The most straightforward way to reduce environmental impacts is for the cruise industry to behave as it says it behaves. Recent court hearings following Carnival Corporation’s violation of its plea agreement/probation demonstrate with alarming clarity that the cruise corporation is not serious about the industry’s frequently repeated claim that they “meet or exceed all environmental regulations”.

A Court-Appointed Monitor found hundreds of environmental violations in Carnival’s first year on probation; Carnival Corporation admitted to six charges of violating probation and paid a $20m fine (above the $40m already paid). Violations continued into year two and year three. Transparency through a Court-Appointed Monitor doesn’t appear to be sufficient to “fix” the problem.

Cruise corporations consequently have a credibility problem. Behaving as they say they do would go a long way – something as simple as no discharges within twelve miles of the coastline. Augment this with no dumping solid waste at sea, (e.g. ground glass, cardboard and packing material, plastic), no discharges of hazardous chemicals or materials of unknown environmental impact (e.g., incinerator ash, sludge from smokestack scrubbers), and on all cruise ships have independent human monitors to observe and record all waste streams and discharges.

The cruise industry would argue this level of monitoring is unnecessary – that they can be trusted. This is undermined by their history of gaming the system and paying hundreds of millions in fines rather than spend the money on environmentally responsible systems.