Editor’s Note: (Monthly Ticket is a CNN Travel series that spotlights some of the world’s most compelling topics in travel. In February, we’ll be highlighting the people, places, and things that are working to make tourism more sustainable. I am looking for a trip.)
(CNN) For travelers who love cruising and consider themselves environmentally conscious, the concept of ‘green’ cruising may seem counterintuitive.
Indeed, sustainability challenges abound in an industry known for carbon-emitting ships, excessive waste production (across garbage, sewage and gray water), and port overtourism.
But as stricter regulations and global environmental benchmarks are set, and consumers increasingly demand cleaner, greener vacations, great efforts are being made to make the experience at sea more sustainable. There are cruise companies that pay.
“All cruise lines are investing in green initiatives, from carbon footprint studies to improving their emissions. Editor-in-Chief Colleen McDaniel explains.
And today, basic sustainability practices like banning plastic straws and reusing linen are not enough to make a difference. The true innovators are those lines that are most aggressively pursuing decarbonization goals through technological breakthroughs, especially with cleaner alternative fuels and greener infrastructure in ports.
The cruise industry transported nearly 30 million passengers in 2019 and contributed more than $154 billion to the pre-pandemic global economy. We expect to surpass these numbers by the end of the year despite the disruption of the pandemic. Cruise proponents say cruising can be a force for good by supporting local economies and stimulating environmental and cultural awareness among cruisers.
However, the industry’s reliance on polluting heavy fuel oil (HFO) for ships is in conflict with the United Nations global net-zero emissions target for 2050. Cruise ships and other shipping vessels currently contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions each year. The carbon footprint per passenger is considered worse than flying, but a report by Pacific His Standard found that her average carbon footprint during a cruise is three times that of hers. It became clear.
Members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the largest cruise industry trade group, ocean-going member cruise lines are committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and a 40% carbon rate by 2030. We are committed to reducing (compared to 2008 levels). ).
But as these goals are so targeted, industry watchdogs say there is a lot of greenwashing. It’s the same type of ‘sustainability’ measure that’s been around for years,” said Mercy Keever, director of the environmental group Friends of the Earth. Annual cruise line “report card”.
An example of this can be seen when a line is trying to replace the carbon and sulfur emitting HFO with a cleaner alternative fuel. Low-carbon liquefied natural gas (LNG) is widely known as a “stepping stone” fuel solution, with more than half of the new cruise ships ordered by a CLIA member adopting his LNG as the primary propulsion. increase.
But environmentalists and scientists warn that LNG is a finite and polluting fossil fuel that could cause even greater environmental damage than HFO in the long term.
Simply put, “LNG is a dirty fuel,” says Dr. says Mark Jacobson. He said LNG’s “direct air pollution emissions are lower than heavy oil, but still significant, and its upstream emissions and footprint are larger than heavy oil.” By-product.
Experts like Jacobson say the industry’s focus should be more entirely on emerging zero-emission energy technologies. “Battery electricity and green hydrogen fuel cell electricity are much cleaner solutions for ships,” Jacobson said, adding, “In both cases, except for water vapor in the case of hydrogen fuel cells, all emissions from the ship are Emissions are eliminated.” .”
CLIA reports that more than 15% of cruise ships debuting in the next five years will be equipped with hydrogen fuel cells or electric batteries.
Another promising sustainability development is the industry move towards zero-emission docking. Most of today’s newbuildings are designed with the ability to turn off their fuel-burning engines while in port and connect them to the local grid, alleviating air pollution and related health problems in the process. increase. Warning: Of her 1,500 odd ports visited by CLIA vessels, only 29 of her ports currently offer compatible infrastructure.
While it may still have a long way to go, “cruising remains one of the dirtiest vacation options,” warns Keever.
This 130-year-old Norwegian adventure travel company has a sustainability ethos at its core. Green energy leader Hurtigruten set aside his HFOs in small vessels more than a decade ago in favor of greener alternative fuels such as marine gasoline and biofuels.
In 2019, they launched the world’s first hybrid battery-electric powered cruise ship (and plan to convert the rest of the expedition fleet to hybrid battery power, along with plans for the world’s first zero-emission cruise ship by 2030. in process).
They were also the first cruise company to enable shore power connections for their entire fleet to eliminate emissions while in port and to phase out single-use plastics on board.
French luxury line Ponant will unveil a 245-passenger Le Commandant Charcot, a hybrid expedition vessel (powered by LNG and batteries) that will significantly reduce emissions, in 2021 and will be a ‘zero impact’ vessel by 2025. are planning
The first cruise line to be Green Marine certified, Ponant offsets 100% of its emissions.
In addition, all Ponant vessels are equipped with shore-to-ship power connections in port. The line has stopped using single-use plastic. An environmental impact study will be conducted prior to designing the itinerary.
When it comes to sustainability, old things can become new again.
Monaco-based sailing company Star Clippers operates three tall sailing vessels ranging from 166 to 227 people, operating up to 80% of the time exclusively on wind low-sulfur diesel oil is used).
The smaller size of the ship means less overall impact and access to less touristy ports. For example, in Costa Rica, Star Clippers was the first cruise line to be certified as a “Pura Vida Pledge” approved by the Costa Rica Tourism Board. Recognize their eco credentials.
The Norwegian cruise line, which debuted in 2022, has launched two of its four planned hybrid ships, operating itineraries along the Norwegian coast.
Havila Voyages has the largest battery of passenger ships at sea, allowing the ship to sail quietly and pollution-free through UNESCO-listed fjords for up to four hours.
Additionally, the batteries can be charged with clean hydroelectric energy from the harbor’s power grid and are strong enough to power ships at berth. While the vessel now also uses her LNG power, Havila aims to be ultimately emission-free with a vessel designed to transition to hydrogen power once the technology becomes available. increase.
Swiss-based shipping company MSC Group’s new luxury cruise brand, which will go on sale this summer, says it will debut the world’s first LNG-powered vessel with hydrogen fuel cells and methane slip reduction technology in 2027. , will really make waves.
In partnership with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, Explora Journeys’ pioneering vessel (the first of two planned in a fledgling line) will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions at sea. reduce and emit very little water vapor and heat when idle in port.
Other highlights of the brand include a single-use plastic ban and underwater noise reduction certification (so as not to disturb marine life).