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Sustainability at Sea


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Sustainability is front of mind for the cruise industry and every month we get more news about initiatives and investments, ranging from new fuels, cutting edge technology and collaborations with shoreside operations to reduce the impact of tourism, whilst bringing benefits to local inhabitants.

Cruise Norway has been developing the Lofoten Islands as a key cruise destination, ensuring that cruise visits actually help to preserve cultural traditions by enabling the community to focus on traditional skills, handicrafts and art inextricably linked with the rich coastal history and in particular, the fishing industry, stretching back to Viking times.

Europe is leading the way towards net zero and one area of focus is shore power - but current high energy prices pose a challenge for the industry alongside the ability of grids to supply the demands of ships in port. This is leading to further interest in installing batteries on board cruise ships to improve efficiency by optimising diesel-electric systems and taking on power from shore when necessary and available. Meanwhile, in ship building we are closely watching one particular project which might lead the way for others. The superyacht Ocean Residences' Njord, originally due to be LNG powered, should now use costly e-methanol and bio-methanol, which will give the vessel access to Norway's world heritage fjords and other environmentally sensitive areas. This project, in partnership with the Meyer Werft yard, has ocean conservation as a top priority.

On board, these smaller ships, which are fitted out to explore further afield, venturing into Polar regions and away from any infrastructure; we see a number of expedition ship operators working with science and academia to host oceanographic research projects and build a global network of well connected influencers championing the greening of travel.

The quest to decarbonise shipping is a priority in ship building plans. According to Our World in Data from the University of Oxford, in 2019 international shipping was responsible for approximately 10.6% of global transport CO2 emissions and the shipping industry is leading the way in aspiring to net zero emissions with a focus on sustainable fuels.

Renewable methanol is said to cut CO2 emissions by up to 95%, reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80% and completely eliminate sulphur oxide and particulate matter emissions. This ultra-low carbon chemical is produced from sustainable biomass or from carbon dioxide and hydrogen and will use renewable resources, such as forestry, agricultural waste and byproducts, biogas from landfill, municipal waste, by products of the pulp and paper industry.

As new fuels are developed, ship builders are planning ahead with dual-fuel engines, tank capacity for methanol and MGO, batteries for hybridisation, heat recovery systems and advanced power management systems, so that existing ships can speedily move over to new technologies. Retrofitting is also an option, but installing more efficient engines, using alternative fuels or incorporating batteries, may not be straightforward.

Passenger and ship safety are key considerations as new green technologies emerge. The weight and space needed for new technologies and alternative fuels can impact stability and ship design is a multi-factored skill requiring collaboration and information-sharing from many different stakeholders including naval engineers, tech developers, class societies and more.

The cruise sector has been the frontrunner using the electronic logbook, which is used for regulatory reporting and calculating the carbon intensity index, as well as creating a big data set that's relevant for decarbonisation efforts. The wide ranging efforts of a range of stakeholders across the world are coming together towards a viable low impact future in the cruise industry.

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos & Mekong, Thailand/Singapore/Malaysia & Philippines, Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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