It should not be a surprise that arguably one of the most critical impacts on our planet is cruise ships. Cruising has seen a drastic increase in demand, especially with younger customers booking. There are now more than 25 million passengers going on cruise trips per year. Apparently “each passengers’ carbon footprint is three times what it would be on land,” says the Pacific Standard. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that cruise lines are responding to make things right. In 2021, a big attention of the industry will have to be paid to Environmental Sustainability and giving much more importance towards responsible tourism.
Environmental sustainability is nothing new to the cruising industry. In fact, the last couple of years have seen cruise line companies actively developing their efforts to conserve the oceans and rivers they sail on and the destinations they pay visit to. Cruise traveling has gained much popularity since 2009 with the estimated number of sailors having almost doubled. Even after being hit devastatingly by the Covid pandemic, with 73% of the experienced cruise travelers raising their hand to go cruising again and 50% of them being more likely to go back to the sea within 2021 we still can see an upward trend of passengers therefore the cruise industry is well aware of the weight they carry in reducing industry’s environmental impact.
So what are the plans that being activated by the industry to tackle this important task? To begin with, cruise lines have invested $22 billion into new environmentally sustainable and energy efficient technologies and cleaner fuels, they’ve placed a 40% target for reduction in rate of carbon emissions by 2030 (compared to 2008), and they are working to reduce the average age of their fleets (https://cruising.org/-/media/research-updates/research/state-of-the-cruise-industry.pdf).
Liquefied Natural Gas
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) are gasses that are pulled out from the earth’s core and then are heavily cooled down to convert in to liquefied gas. This liquefied state of the gas makes it colorless, odorless, non-corrosive and non-toxic. The pros of getting adopted to LNG are remarkable as it creates a cheaper, more efficient, and more ecological gas. LNG emits zero sulfur, emits 85% less nitrogen oxide, has 99% less particulate emissions and 25% less greenhouse gas emissions.
Almost every cruise line is looking to opt to use LNG for all the new ships coming out in the future, as this will create a longer fleet lifespan with less erosion on the engine, cleaner emissions and low maintenance costs. For existing ships, the price of converting to LNG would be too significant therefore cruise lines are looking for other environmental friendly alternatives for these ships, such as exhaust gas cleaning systems (ECGS). This is an exhaust gas cleaning system, commonly known as a scrubber, which allows ships to keep using heavy fueled oil, while lowering emission of their Sulphur oxide as well as particulate matter. In brief, this scrubber will scrub off poisonous sulfur oxides from exhaust gases. Adopting ECGS will let ships to lower their sulfur oxide emission rate by 98%, and will reduce total particulate matter emission rate by 50%, also will reduce nitrogen oxides emission by 12%.
Responsible, or sustainable tourism, is just as vital as environmental sustainability, as those practices usually go hand in hand. Drawing hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors to a destination is economically advantageous but it also comes with the disadvantages of overcrowding, and irresponsible behaviors by tourists, which could possibly be a harm to the eccentric heritage, landscape, and way of living of the places visited. As the desire for cruising goes up firmly with each passing year, cruise lines are conscious of their influence to not only protect the physical area they allow passengers to travel, but also to protect ,respect and value the culture and social environment of the destinations they visit.
Cruise line companies are collaborating with local communities to come up with creative ways to handle the flow of travelers the ships bring to shore, as well as applying the best standards of responsible tourism. For example, Princess Cruises is adapting a method of “socially conscious” cruising. “It’s about creating a small group that have immersive training onboard, and then when they go ashore, it’s about doing things that are good for the local communities,” Vice President of North American Sales for Carnival Corp. and Princess John Chernesky said. Other examples include how CLIA Cruise Lines, in conjunction with the city authorities and Council, developed new measures and protocols to reduce issues involved with flow of the tourists in Dubrovnik; in Santorini, the cruise industry collaborate with local authorities on a concept to evenly distribute the flow of the tourists arrive in ships when they travel in destinations; and in Alaska cruise lines have developed more strict waste water requirements even better than the communities on land (https://res.cloudinary.com/dix5tzpvs/image/upload/v1563368124/CLIA/Sustainability/Sustaining_The_Places_We_Sail_Destinations_Updated.pdf).
Cruise lines have also adopted on-board policies to encourage passengers to be more sustainable from the environmental perspective.
Royal Caribbean, Princess cruise line and Norwegian cruise line have opted to use energy-saving LED or fluorescent lighting on their fleets. Royal Caribbean has gone a step further and has installed card-activated cabin lighting and air-conditioning system that automatically turns off once the veranda door is opened. It’s been reported that the introduction of the LED lighting system on Norwegian’s Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Star ships in 2018 has resulted in a 70 % reduction in energy consumption and 50 % reduction of heat output.
Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Cunard, Oceania, MSC and Regent Seven Seas have chosen to eliminate or lower the use of single-use plastics on board as they’re being replaced with metal utensils and toiletry dispensers instead of small bottles, alongside stricter food packaging as well. Many of the cruise lines have completely banned plastic straws on their ships. Royal Caribbean has promised to ban all single-use plastics in the coming year and Regent Seven Seas has become the first luxury liner to completely get rid of them.
With the rapid growth of the industry moving forward while being sustainable from an environmental perspective is definitely a challenge. But with the covid pandemic and the other environmental disasters that had an impact on the cruise industry directly or otherwise, it clearly looks like the cruise lines and governing institutes have acknowledged the existence of the industry itself depends on the existence of a thriving protected environment around it. With all the steps and measures being taken it is safe to say zero emission cruising may not be merely a fantasy in the near future.