Setting new sustainability standards for cruise ports

While the rising popularity of cruise holidays is a huge benefit to the industry, the associated environmental impact presents a significant shortcoming. With this in mind, ports are going to great lengths to help cruise ships in their sustainability endeavours

Setting new sustainability standards for cruise ports
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that an average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew produces about 21,000 gallons of sewage a day – that’s more than a billion gallons a year for the industry. Meanwhile, according to the EPA, each day an average cruise ship is at sea it emits more sulphur dioxide than 13 million cars.

Addressing this is key to cruise executives, who are working to create state of the art ships that set new records in terms of energy efficiency. However, success cannot be achieved without the help from ports. “It is important that the sustainability endeavours of the cruise lines are supported in equal measure by ports of call so that the industry as a whole continues to strive towards best practice and standards,” says Pat Ward, head of corporate services at Dublin Port Company.

“It is critical thaat ports work collaboratively with cruise lines on sustainability and environmental initiatives and that that economic, social and environmental objectives of ports and cruise lines are aligned,” explains Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

Rich Pruitt, vice president of safety and environmental stewardship at Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd. agrees: “Most sustainability challenges require a collaborative approach to implementing solutions. As cruise lines continue their efforts to be stewards of the environment and communities in which they operate it is becoming apparently clear that the ports and the services they offer are as important as what is done on the ship.”

There are several key sustainability services that a port needs to offer for a cruise line to consider them favourably, the most obvious of which is waste sorting, handling and processing. “Effective waste management can only be achieved when different parties work together to capture, transport and process materials,” says Pruitt.

“The most progressive ports are installing grey and black water collection systems,” explains Phillip Crannell, president of the Ports and Maritime Group. “This is of huge benefit to cruise lines.”

Implementing an energy infrastructure that supports alternative energy sources is also key. “Some ports are piloting technologies for supplying natural gas while others are considering installing cold ironing (shorepower) capabilities,” says Pruitt. “Even though these technologies and initiatives are in the early stages of development and implementation, forward looking ports can engage with the cruise industry for planning and providing these services in the future.”

According to Crannell, cold ironing is tricky to get right because each ship is effectively a floating power plant – they use an unbelievable amount of electricity. “The Port of LA is one port that is experiencing success – it has invested significant sums of money in its Alternative Maritime Power project and is attracting a lot of business because of it,” he says.

Destination stewardship is another area where ports can make a real difference. “Double boarding bridges – so that passengers can get on and off the vessel quickly – reduce queues and therefore the time spent using energy docking,” says Crannell.

This is something that Håkan Jönsson, sales manager at TTS Marine knows only too well. “Fast loading and unloading times are central to sustainability endeavours and bring a number of operational and environmental efficiencies,” he says. “We’re seeing increasing demand for clever linkspans, mooring systems and cargo access equipment that can help the logistics of the port and vessel work together seamlessly in a bid to create more efficient processes.”

Ensuring that passengers have access to an efficient and well-integrated transport system once they disembark is also key. “Access to environmentally friendly options such as light rail systems, helps to reduce emissions while delivering passengers within easy reach of their destination,” explains Ward. “Under Dublin Port’s ABR Project, cruise ships will be able to berth in full view of the city and within strolling distance from the LUAS, or light rail system, providing clean access to and from the city centre for passengers. Nearby stations for bike hire, including one day options, complement this further and cater for passengers who wish to explore the city independently.”

It’s no surprise that, in the coming years, even greater pressure will be put on cruise lines and ports to boost their sustainability endeavours. “The environmental question will continue to be a big focus for all, and will require even greater collaboration,” says Jönsson.

“The evolution is clear,” adds Andrés Guerra, head of the sustainability department at the Port Authority of A Coruña. “The commitment to environment sustainability will have to be stronger. Certain types of environmental behaviours will not be admitted, such as poor management of waste or emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. In addition, the shipping industry and port sector should direct their efforts to achieve a carbon-free and eco-efficient intermodal transport, being very careful with the use of fresh water and respectful with the terrestrial and marine biodiversity.”

“We believe sustainability is a journey and it will continue to evolve,” surmises Pruitt. “It will never be finished as we learn and understand impacts to the environment and as communities change. Obviously emissions are a top priority for a lot of ports. This priority will evolve technology to make sure the industry is doing its best to limit its impact.”

Achieving better communication between ports, authorities and cruise liners is vital for this future success. “The industry should be working towards a mutual goal, and that is to make the industry greener. We need to all move in the same direction,” says Jon Olav Stedje, manager of port operations at the Port of Flåm. “The lack of sharing information can lead to different strategies to do so. By this I mean if the authorities and ports move towards a solution based on shore power, they need to have a guarantee that the buyers are willing to do so, and that they adjust the fleet to meet the requirements. And vice versa: if the cruise liners want to go for a dual-engine LNG solution, the ports need to be prepared for that.”

In the short term, what’s clear is that there is a growing tendency for cruise lines to pick ports of call based on factors that will support their sustainability targets. “The presence of these facilities can make all the difference in finding a place on itineraries,” says Guerra. “For ports of all sizes, best practice in these areas can win new visits from operators.”

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
Monday, September 26, 2016