The cruise industry is one of the fastest growing segments of tourism. According to CNN, the industry transported close to 30 million passengers and contributed over $154 billion to the global economy in 2019. At the same time, many studies have been published on the environmental impacts of these floating cities. Cruise ships and other maritime vessels are responsible for nearly 3% of global greenhouse emissions each year, as reported by the International Maritime Organization. A report by Pacific Standard revealed that a person’s average carbon footprint triples in size while on a cruise. Traveling on a cruise ship could be considered worse than flying in terms of carbon emissions per passenger.
UK’s Channel 4 published an investigation showing the environmental impact of cruises on the environment but also on health. During their undercover investigation on one of the UK’s most famous cruise ships, they measured that the ultra fine particle pollution on the ship was double that of Piccadilly Circus in London.
Swimming pools, casinos, refrigerators, air conditioning, theaters, and energy needs never stop on a cruise ship, even when passengers leave to explore the city they’ve called home. The hum of the engines is permanent, as is the air pollution. While the world’s largest tourist cruiser was calling at the port. The ultrafine particles measured were 20 times higher near the ship. The association denounced the harmful effects for the inhabitants.
This air pollution is largely due to the type of heavy fuel oil used in maritime transport, which is legally authorized to contain 3,500 times more sulfur than that what is used for vehicles. While in port, ships are required to use a lighter version, but once in the middle of the ocean, heavy fuel oil is consumed in priority (you will have understood that it costs less). These studies reveal that the CO2 and fine particles emitted in one day by these cruise ships are equivalent to that of a million cars.
Friends of the Earth has estimated that a ship like ‘Explorer of the Seas’, which can accommodate just over 4,000 passengers, produces 1.9 million liters of wastewater and 19 tons of solid waste. Maritime regulations allow treated sewage to be discharged into the sea if the ships are more than three nautical miles from shore.
Water from showers, sinks, or dishwashers can also be discharged directly into the sea in some areas. It can contain oil, soap, and food waste. This practice is illegal in rivers but not in the ocean. Beyond twelve miles, even raw sewage can be dumped. Sewage pollution increases the risk of more “dead zones” in the ocean and poses a threat to marine species.
Some major companies, such as Carnival Corporation (Costa) and MSC or Royal Caribbean have announced that they are building ships that will use liquid natural gas (LNG). Some claim LNG is less polluting alternative to heavy fuel oil though even this assumption is being debated. According to CNN, environmentalists and scientists caution that LNG is a finite and polluting fossil fuel that may cause even more environmental damage than HFO long-term.
“LNG is a dirty fuel,” Dr. Mark Jacobson, director of the atmosphere/energy program at Stanford University told CNN. Jacobson is author of ‘No Miracles Needed: How Today’s Technology Can Save Our Climate and Clean Our Air’. “While LNG’s direct air pollution emissions are less than heavy fuel oil, they are still substantial – and its upstream emissions and footprint are larger than of heavy fuel,” said Jacobson. “The far cleaner solutions for ships are battery electricity and green hydrogen fuel cell electricity. In either case, all emissions from the ship –aside from water vapor in the case of hydrogen fuel cells– are eliminated.”
Finnish cruise line Viking Line is exploring wind power, as well as the possibility to install a rotor sail system to help reduce emissions. Many efforts are also being made to improve waste management practices, systems for cleaning up discharged fumes, and educating passengers to be environmentally conscious during their stay.
Friends of the Earth has noted that most recent ships have installed advanced wastewater treatment systems to prevent ocean pollution. They evaluate cruise lines and ships on various environmental criteria. These are some cruise lines leading the way in terms of sustainability.
The cruise line Hurtigruten is known for its adventure cruises. The company has always been involved in protecting the environment. For 100 years, they have been working with the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) to contribute to oceanographic research. Their ship MS Trollfjord carries a “Ferrybox” that automatically collects data on the waters.
Every 15 minutes, the scientific station in the pump room transmits valuable environmental data to NIVA on salinity, temperature, algae, particles, etc. In 2019, they launched the first two hybrid cruise ships which use a battery system to power them.
Do you know what MS Richard With, MS Kong Harald and MS Nordlys have in common? By summer 2023, they will all be modern hybrid ships🔋 This will take us closer to our long-term goal of operating all our ships and sailings completely emission-free. pic.twitter.com/EwNT2sH7Uo— Hurtigruten | Norwegian Coastal Express (@Hurtigruten) June 3, 2022
2. Havila Voyages
Havila Voyages’ four coastal cruise ships are loaded with the largest battery packs ever installed on a passenger ship. The Eco-Voyager Program Havila’s way of mobilizing guests to take care of the environment by reducing energy, water consumption, and waste generation on the coastal cruise from Bergen-Kirkenes. The company is currently operating two coastal cruise ships, Havila Capella (2021) and Havila Castor (2022) on the Norwegian coastal line from Bergen to Kirkenes. Very soon, it will have two more; Havila Polaris and Havila Pollux.
The battery packs, which are supplied by Corvus, weigh 86 tons, and they have a capacity of 6.1 megawatt hours. The batteries are charged with clean hydropower ashore. When the batteries are not used, the ships run on LNG (liquid natural gas). With the gradual blending of biogas, emissions of CO2 can be reduced to 50 % in 2023 and 80 % in 2024.
The hull on all Havila Voyages’ ships is specially designed to sail as energy-efficiently as possible, and it is built to withstand local weather conditions on the Norwegian coast. Surplus heat from cooling water and the energy system used by the ship is being recovered and utilized through the Ulmatec Pyro Waste Energy Management System. The system uses this lost energy for other applications on board, such as ship heating and hot water for the shower.
Havila Voyages´ ships have been designed to ensure that when hydrogen becomes a viable power approved for commercial sailing, the vessels can be converted into using the latest technology. Havila Voyages´ coastal cruise vessels are part of a pilot scheme by Hav Design called “FreeCo2ast”.
Ponant has been taking its cruise guests to the planet’s most remote, hidden and out-of-the-way locations. Making this choice entails responsibilities towards the ecosystems that compose these places and the communities that live in them. In order to stay at the forefront of innovation, the company works on a day-to-day basis to promote a more responsible and more sustainable form of tourism through its Ponant Blue Horizon program.
The company has invested in building a modern fleet, with the goal of achieving the sector’s highest standards. Offering between 16 and 165 cabins and suites only, and equipped with the latest available technologies, Ponant’s small-capacity ships enable passengers to explore the world in a more responsible way. In 2021, Ponant started using a hybrid expedition ship, Le Commandant Charcot, which runs on LNG and electric battery power. It can carry 245 passengers. According to CNN, the company has announced plans for a “zero-impact” ship by 2025.
All the ships in Ponant’s fleet carry the Bureau Veritas CLEANSHIP certification label, which attests to reduced environmental impact. Equipped with generator-powered electric propulsion motors, the ships have achieved the Comfort 1 rating, which is the best level possible in terms of low noise and vibration levels, thus ensuring the comfort of passengers.
In #Antarctica, our guests experience a unique moment: the observation of #Minke whales. Our naturalist guide shares his knowledge of these cetaceans.— PONANT Cruises (@ponant_cruises) February 6, 2023
🎥©Studio PONANT – Fred Michel pic.twitter.com/2l21kPDPiE
Ecoship aims to reduce propulsion energy by 20% through the use of a diesel-electric POD propulsion system. It will be able to operate on multiple fuels with priority given to LNG and biogas. It will have an estimated 50% reduction in electrical load and will incorporate a heat recovery and reuse system. 10 retractable photovoltaic sails will contribute up to 10% of the overall propulsion needs depending on routes and wind conditions. 10 retractable wind turbines will be used during port calls, making the EcoShip a zero-emission vessel.
The upper deck and sails will be covered with 6,000 m2 of photovoltaic cells producing a total power of 740 KW, sufficient for all the ship’s lighting needs. The ship will include kinetic floors for energy production and educational purposes. A covered garden will be built with plants and green walls fed by compost made from waste generated on board. Energy that is normally lost as heat or cold to the air and/or water will be stored and reused.
The wastewater generated on board will be treated and reused as technical water, garden water or other. If water is discharged into the sea, the ship commits to ensuring that it is of potable quality. Events will be organized to raise awareness of climate change among travelers and port city residents, as well as to present new green technologies. The ship expects a 30% reduction in CO2 compared to a newly designed cruise ship. Thanks to the use of renewable energy, propulsion efficiency, accommodation efficiency and speed and route management.