Cruise Industry on Track for 2050 Environmental Goals

CLIA releases a report showing the cruise industry on track to reach its 2050 emission goals. However, there is still a long road ahead.

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The cruise lines have made great strides toward becoming a more environmentally conscious industry in the last few years.

From switching to less polluting marine fuels, more ports offering shore power, and investments in newer, less pollutant cruise ships, the cruise industry is undoubtedly listening to the massive amount of criticism it received in the last 20-30 years. 

However, with a commitment to becoming fully carbon neutral by 2050, much work is still to be done. According to CLIA, a cruise industry-representing organization, the move to fuels such as LNG is certainly one that more cruise companies will need to take. However, not everyone is convinced of the benefits of LNG to the environment. 

Cruise Industry on Track For 2050 Goals

Over the years, cruise ships have become more environmentally friendly, and the cruise industry has worked hard to improve even more.

The days that cruise ships could come into port and emit black smoke while blowing out the smoke stacks are becoming a sight much rarer than 10 or 20 years ago. It is undoubtedly a thing to be thankful for.

CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association, released its 2022 report on the Global Cruise Industry Environmental Technologies and Practices, showing the industry’s progress so far. Progress it needs to make if the goal of being net-zero carbon globally by 2050 is to be reached. 

Over the years, we’ve seen several innovations brought to cruise liners that show how change is no longer a ‘dirty’ word in the cruise industry. Instead, it’s one that is embraced.

Changes include the move to LNG-powered cruise ships, highly advanced exhaust scrubbing systems, filtration and sewage systems that clean wastewater up to 100%, and even fuel-cell technology.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

President, and CEO, CLIA, Kelly Craighead said: “Innovation and engineering are at the heart of the industry’s vision for net zero carbon cruising. The cruise industry continues to lead the way by investing billions to incorporate new technologies, accelerate the development of sustainable marine fuels, in particular, engines capable of using sustainable marine fuels, and enable shoreside electricity connectivity on existing and new ships.”

“These are the fundamental building blocks for the decarbonization of global shipping, and we are acting now for the future.”

Cruise ports also do their part, providing shore power so cruise ships can switch off their engines while docked. And 85% of the new ships coming out in the following years will be fitted with shore power usage capabilities. 

Is LNG Good?

So, is it all good? Indeed, the efforts by the cruise industry are evident. But some opponents say the move to LNG, in particular, is not as effective as advertised. Large amounts of Methane are produced during the production and use of LNG, a far more dangerous greenhouse gas. 

Researchers at the University College London’s Energy Institute found in 2018 that “there is no significant CO2-equivalent reduction achieved through the use of LNG as a marine fuel.” 

Costa Smeralda Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: optimistic_view / Shutterstock.com

This is also why Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has said it would not be introducing LNG to its ships. The company is looking at Methanol as a viable fuel for powering its ships. Other cruise lines are looking at Biofuel, or even fuel cells, all options that seem to be a better option than LNG. 

Another issue is the use of shore power. While the principle is viable, the question is where this power comes from. As Harry Sommer, the Norwegian Cruise Line President, noted at a conference in New York last week, it all depends on how that power is produced:

“If they’re using coal-generated electricity, shore-side power does nothing. It just transfers the carbon emissions somewhere else. So, we want to be very thoughtful about using shore-side power at places that are generating electricity through at least a somewhat sustainable source.”

Governments and Cruise Industry Must Work Together

To conclude, there is a verifiable drive to become a more environmentally conscious and friendly cruise industry. However, change comes slow and needs huge innovations before a 5000-passenger cruise ship will be able to sail without adverse effects.

“The cruise industry has always been and will continue to be at the cutting edge of innovation when it comes to environmental and maritime technologies,” said the Chairman of CLIA Global, Pierfrancesco Vago. 

“For this next phase of our journey to net zero as an industry, we now need clear support from governments and policy-makers to ensure that the right infrastructure is developed also on land and to encourage the investment and innovation that will be required for the development of sustainable marine fuels at scale.”

The technology does exist; there are ways that cruise ships can become net-zero on carbon emissions. However, there will need to be huge investments from both the cruise industry and governments to create an infrastructure that makes it possible for the hundreds of cruise ships worldwide to bunker fuels such as biofuel, methanol, or even hydrogen. And that could take many years. 

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