With COVID-19 slowly fading in the rear view mirror – at least from the perspective of the impact on the cruise industry – cruise lines made a concerted effort to focus on more positive messaging at last month’s Seatrade Cruise Global conference. In particular, the industry moved the spotlight firmly onto sustainability, announcing a global commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
“We haven’t taken our eyes off the long-term target to be truly sustainable,” Pierfrancesco Vago told Seatrade attendees. Vago is the executive chairman, cruise division at MSC Group, and is currently serving as global chair of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). “Our industry’s resolve to be a leader in sustainability never changed during the pandemic.”
In addition to its commitment to pursue net carbon emission cruising by 2050, all ocean-going CLIA members have agreed that, by 2035, all ships calling at ports where shoreside electricity (SSE) is available will be equipped to use it, allowing engines to be switched off while docked at port.
Currently, 32% of the global cruise fleet is fitted to operate on shore power (where available). By 2027, the percentage will more than double, with 66% of the global cruise fleet equipped for shoreside power.
“In this way, we are acting now to reduce and eliminate emissions in port, which provides immediate benefits to local communities,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA, during the Seatrade keynote session.
Other investments by the industry include lower-emission fuels, like Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), which by 2027 will power more than half of the new capacity of the global cruise fleet, along with research into alternative energy sources like hybrid technologies, synthetic fuel, and fuel cells such as lithium ion battery storage.
Other sustainability-related investments by cruise lines, Craighead said, relate to reducing onboard waste and preventing over-tourism in oversaturated markets.
Within the cruise industry, CLIA isn’t alone in making sustainability-related announcements. Here are a few other highlights of sustainability innovations recently announced.
Royal Caribbean Commits to Net Zero Cruise Ship by 2035
Over the next 18 to 24 months, Royal Caribbean group, parent company of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises, will develop a series of emission-related goals, all with the intent of delivering a net zero cruise ship by 2035.
The company’s focus on achieving measurable goals builds on its track record of designing and operating some of the most energy-efficient ships at sea. Using a variety of new technologies, each new ship added to the Royal Caribbean Group fleet is 20%to 25% more efficient than their predecessors.
The line intends to reach net zero emissions through a combination of energy-efficiencies, alternative fuel and power solutions, and optimized deployment and integration of strategic shore-based supply chains.
Carnival Corp Rolls out Food Waste Biodigesters
Carnival Corp has completed the installation of nearly 600 food waste biodigesters across its global fleet in order to facilitate food waste management and reduction. The biodigesters were added to ships across the company’s nine cruise line brands, including Carnival Cruise Line, Princess, Holland America, Seabourn, and Cunard. CCL, for instance, has biodigesters on all of its ships.
The technology uses a natural aerobic digestion process inside each machine to efficiently break down food waste using a mixture of beneficial microorganisms, enabling the systems to process anything that can be consumed by a human. Able to function 24 hours a day,, the biodigesters have been strategically placed in key areas of the ship where food is processed, making it easier and more efficient for crew members to manage and control food waste. The machines can also weed out non-food items and other materials accidentally mixed with food waste, providing an additional layer of environmental protection.
The biodigesters are part of a corporate-wide initiative to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. Other goals the company is working toward include sending 100% of waste to waste-to-energy facilities by 2050 and to partner with primary vendors to ensure near 100% reuse of packaging materials, also by 2050.
Sustainable Shore Excursions
MSC Cruises has made changes to its summer shore excursions offerings as way of increasing its contributions to the cruise industry’s sustainability. Among the changes are more low-carbon tours in the Caribbean and Europe, including 150 bicycle tours in 21 countries; increased use of hybrid and electric buses to shuttle guests in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Spain and Sweden; and more “Protectours.”
Protectours will be available at 20 ports at the start of the 2022 summer season and will expand to up to 90 ports by the seasons’ end. Up to 70% of these tours will have a low environmental impact thanks to an increase in the number of walking, hiking, bicycling, canoeing and kayaking options, with several tours set to make a direct contribution to the environment by helping the protection of habitats and species. One such tour gives cruisers the chance to plant trees on the Greek island of Rhodes, while another has participants learning about urban farming and beekeeping in Rotterdam.
Nuclear-Powered Zero Emission Expedition Ships?
At last months’ Seatrade, ship design firm Ulstein revealed designs for a nuclear-powered zero-emission expedition cruise ship. Called the Ulstein SIF, the Ice Class 1C vessel would use next-generation batteries, which would be charged using a Thorium Molten Salt Reactor. The Thorium MSR – a type of nuclear reactor – would be located on a service ship (nicknamed Thor) that accompanied the expedition ship.
The SIF expedition ship would accommodate up to 80 passengers and 80 crew, offering silent, zero-emission expedition cruises to remote areas, including Arctic and Antarctic waters. The Thor service ship, which can double as a rescue ship should the need arise, would feature helicopter pads, firefighting equipment, rescue booms, workboats, autonomous surface vehicles and airborne drones, cranes, laboratories, and a lecture lounge.
Ulstein is best known for designing X-BOW expedition ships that you can find sailing for Lindblad Expeditions and Aurora Expeditions.