The Cruise Industry’s Pursuit of Carbon Neutrality by 2050

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As the global community becomes increasingly environmentally conscious, the cruise industry is setting sail towards a greener future. Committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, cruise lines, shipbuilders, and research institutions are joining forces to develop sustainable technologies and practices that revolutionize the way we travel on water.

Pioneering projects like the NEcOLEAP and “Reverse” are reimagining cruise ship design, while industry giants like MSC Cruises lead the charge in sustainable innovation. From liquefied natural gas to methanol-powered ships, the quest for carbon neutrality is driving the cruise industry to push the boundaries of sustainability and reshape the future of maritime travel.

The NEcOLEAP Project

Launched in February 2022, the primary purpose of the NEcOLEAP project is to create a climate-neutral cruise ship concept within the next few years.

The project also seeks to strengthen and expand innovative research and development within shipbuilding, ensuring that the maritime sector remains at the forefront of sustainable technology and design.

Read Also: LNG Cruise Ship: Top Pros and Cons

The project is a joint development by the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland, the Finnish government, Aalto University, and others. It aims to make Finland a leader in sustainable shipbuilding.

Future Cruise Ship
Render: Meyer Turku

It is a title that the Meyer Turku shipyard has been working hard on getting, as it is already involved in Carnival Corporation’s Excel Class ships, Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, and TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 7.

A core aspect of the NEcOLEAP project is its direct connection to the Meyer Group’s sustainability strategy. The group has committed to developing a climate-neutral cruise concept by 2025, and the NEcOLEAP project serves as a crucial step in achieving this goal. 

The project’s success will demonstrate the viability of climate-neutral cruise ships and help pave the way for more sustainable and responsible practices within the sector. This is also where the ‘Reverse’ Project plays a significant role. 

The “Reverse” Project: Envisioning the Cruise Ship of the Future

The Meyer Group unveiled an innovative cruise ship concept this week called “Reverse,” offering a glimpse into the future of sustainable cruise ship design. 

While the design itself is something that has drawn the most attention, and not always in a positive manner, the technology behind the vessel is impressive and, more importantly, achievable with the technology now available.

Future Cruise Ship
Render Courtesy: Meyer Werft

Inspired by the aerodynamic shape of a rockhopper penguin, the “Reverse” features a closed glass façade, urban gardening areas, and drone landing pads. Its energy concept relies on innovations such as harvesting wave energy and using solar power, fuel cells, and wind energy to eliminate the need for fossil fuels.

The “Reverse” project shows that the NEcOLEAP project is achievable in the next few years. However, for now, it is mostly on the cruise lines themselves to get the ball rolling.

Committing to Sustainable Innovation

As one of the major players in the cruise industry, MSC Cruises has taken a proactive approach towards sustainability, striving to achieve the International Maritime Organization’s objectives of a 40% carbon reduction by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050

To accomplish these ambitious goals, MSC Cruises has implemented various innovative technologies and practices, including low-noise hull designs, advanced waste processing systems, intelligent ventilation, air conditioning systems, and energy-saving LED lighting systems. 

However, MSC Cruises is not alone. In line with the 2050 goals, many cruise lines are exploring the potential of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel to reduce their environmental footprint.

MSc World Europa
MSC World Europa

Although LNG has its critics due to methane emissions during production and use, the industry sees it as a stepping stone towards more sustainable fuel options, such as methanol or biofuel. Methanol, in particular, seems to be a viable option, with many new build ships already being fitted with the ability to run on Methanol.  

Cruise lines also work with port authorities to utilize shore power, allowing cruise ships to switch off their engines while docked. The only issue with shore power is that it is only sustainable if the power source is sustainable. 

The Pursuit of Carbon Neutrality

The pursuit of carbon neutrality by 2050 shows the cruise industry is serious about environmental responsibility and sustainable innovation. 

In the coming years, as the world becomes greener, the focus on sustainable initiatives will become increasingly important to passengers and stakeholders alike. 

Various European countries are banning diesel from their cities. The steps to banning a diesel-burning cruise ship are only small for the government but one that has a massive impact on the hundreds of large and small cruise destinations in Europe.

The NEcOLEAP project, MSC Cruises’ commitment to sustainability, the 2050 goals, LNG and Methanol-powered cruise ships, and innovative concepts like the “Reverse” project all highlight the industry’s dedication to creating a more eco-friendly future for cruising. It also shows that it isn’t just something the cruise industry wants to do; it is something that it will have to do to remain operational. 

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