The cruise industry says it is working to reduce its carbon footprint. here’s how

Under scrutiny for its environmental footprint, the European cruise industry is blowing the horn that it is investing heavily in new technologies and innovation to navigate towards a greener future.

With annual global passenger numbers reaching 30 million before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is making a comeback with a new global zero-carbon cruise target by 2050.

Amid growing pressure for more sustainable and responsible travel, the industry has already re-engineered ship design and operation, including researching alternative fuel and power technologies and stepping up recycling and recycling. sustainability in supply chains.

But for environmental activists, the 2050 carbon neutral goal may well be seen as too little, too late.

“We must do everything we can to bring this timetable forward,” Marie-Caroline Laurent, Europe’s chief executive of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), told Euronews Next at the trade body’s first European summit in Genoa, where sustainability dominated.

“We obviously depend on the readiness and availability of the technology. There is a lot of talk about creating the first zero-emissions ship. Based on the technology, this ship can only be available around 2030, 2035. We are counting also on replacing older ships,” she said.

Switch to cleaner fuels

While cruising is recognized as an important part of Europe’s travel and tourism economy, an academic study last year found that a large ship can speed a carbon footprint of more than 12,000 cars. He also showed that a night on board consumes 12 times more energy than a night in a hotel.

More than 20 billion euros have already been invested worldwide in ships equipped with new technologies and cleaner fuels, in order to reduce atmospheric emissions and achieve greater efficiency, according to the CLIA.

Exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS), for example, have been installed to remove sulfur content from exhaust gases and reduce particulates (the solid particles generated by combustion).

Next year, Monaco-headquartered Silversea Cruises will launch what it touts as a “game-changing” cruise liner.

The latest class, known as “Project Evolution”, will operate using three power sources, including a fuel cell system, battery technology and dual-fuel engines, using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the main source alongside traditional marine gas oil.

LNG emits around 25% less carbon dioxide (CO2) than conventional marine fuels, but its emissions of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – remain particularly problematic for campaign groups like the International Council on Clean Transportation.

The Silver Nova ship, which can accommodate more than 700 passengers, will use fuel cells to supply 100% of the port’s power, meaning the engines can be shut down. It will be the first hybrid luxury cruise ship of its kind to be emissions-free when docked, according to Silversea Cruises.

This is accompanied by an industry commitment that by 2035 all ships calling at ports where onshore electricity is available will be equipped to use it. But cruise lines say their large-scale use is being held back by lagging port infrastructure.

“Electricity ashore is good, but there are only a few ports in the world where you can connect,” Roberto Martinoli, CEO of Silversea Cruises, told Euronews Next.

“Most ships, especially the big ones, are already equipped with it. And some of the smaller ones, like ours, are in the same situation. does not solve any problem”.

Cruise passengers seeking change

Like Silversea, the Costa Group, an Italian subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, is investing heavily in LNG. Costa currently has four LNG-powered vessels, with the first two joining its fleet in 2019, followed by two more last year.

It is also preparing to test rechargeable batteries and transforming food waste on board into fertilizer.

The company says the driving force behind its green transformation comes from the cruise lines themselves.

“I follow many interviews when we hire people and in almost every interview the candidate asks questions about sustainability, about our approach. I think that is a main trigger,” said Michael Thamm, CEO of Costa Group. Cruises and Carnival Asia.

Other alternative sources to heavy fuel oils under development include biodiesel, methanol, ammonia and hydrogen. But there are technical, procurement, and regulatory hurdles that need to be resolved before widespread adoption.

The Finnish company Wärtsilä, which has a workshop in Genoa, develops and supplies marine technologies focused on new fuels.

“It’s not just about how you implement one fuel or another in our engines,” Giovanni Paladino, who looks after strategic accounts at Wärtsilä, told Euronews Next.

“You have to think about how this can be sustainable in a global supply chain philosophy. We have to think about the global energy problem for the world.”

In this context, Wärtsilä sees methanol as a precursor to the green transition, claiming that it complies with environmental regulations, has established a supply and can also be installed relatively easily on existing vessels.

“It’s one of the exciting things about the path to decarbonization, the transition to sustainable cruising, because we need to have a big impact on existing fleets as well,” Paladino said.

Paladino rules out the idea of ​​having fully battery-powered cruise ships in the future, pointing out that the storage space currently needed for long trips makes this unrealistic.

Instead, he thinks hybrid power will be the way to go to achieve net-zero cruising by 2050.

“A zero-emission ship is not here yet, but we are targeting it,” he said.

The pursuit of sustainability also trickles down to those building the next generation of cruise liners, who are also under pressure to be as green as possible when it comes to design innovation.

At the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, which employs around 5,000 workers, three huge ships are currently taking shape, with one set to roll off the production line next month.

“The materials we use during the 30 years of a ship’s life will be recycled,” said Giuseppe Torrente, senior vice president of the Fincantieri Sestri Ponente shipyard.

“We don’t use plastic. For all the steel activities, and all the activities we have in the shipyard, we can sort the waste. We recycle everything”.

Cruising is a competitive activity. Dazzling new looks and unique onboard experiences have long been the battleground. But innovating for a more sustainable future now seems to have the same bill.

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