Cruise Business Roundtable: Operating to protect the environment

Susan Parker asks cruise line executives to share their thoughts on current and future green technology, as well as how they are meeting environmental goals and challenges

Cruise Business Roundtable: Operating to protect the environment
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

What is currently the most important piece of green technology onboard your ships and what does it do?

David Dingle, chairman of Carnival UK, and Tom Strang, senior vice president of Maritime Affairs at Carnival Corporation: Exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers). Although the original drive for scrubbers was precipitated by the development of sulphur oxide (SOx) Emissions Control Areas (ECAs), the introduction of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 0.5% global limit in 2020 means that our advanced investment, research and installation of these systems was extremely worthwhile. Our scrubbers have been compliant from the word go, but we have opportunities to improve and upgrade them to make them more reliable. Carnival overperforms against the 0.1% ECA target, and there has been a small reduction for nitrogen oxide (NOx) and an appreciable decrease in particulate matter emissions. We also perform way above IMO requirements in terms of the water being emitted from open-loop scrubbers.

James Mitchell, vice president of Environment, Medical Policy and Public Health at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings: Advanced wastewater treatment systems allow our vessels to treat our wastewater to stringent internal and external standards prior to discharge. When our vessels go into dry dock, we take the opportunity to assess and install newer systems that will benefit our vessels and the environment. Water flow reducers have also shown a noticeable benefit over the years, decreasing the volume of the ships use, produce and bunker.

Wybcke Meier, CEO of TUI Cruises: We constantly implement innovative technologies, which has made our three newbuilds particularly energy-efficient cruise ships. Each one consumes around 30% less energy than cruise ships of a comparable size and class. A centrepiece of green technology is the innovative combined system for treating exhaust gases, consisting of a hybrid scrubber, two catalytic converters and a washwater cleaning system. The system lowers SOx, NOx and particulate emissions by around 99%, 75% and 60% respectively.

Richard J. Vogel, president and CEO of Pullmantur: Protecting the environment is a priority and one of the pillars on which the operations area relies on in their daily work. Not only do we scrupulously comply with all international regulations, but we have implemented much strict policies of our own. Recently we installed advanced water treatment systems across our fleet, allowing ships to purify greywater and blackwater onboard. Once the process is complete, the water is almost clean and is discharged, eliminating the ships’ environmental impact.

What do you think will be the most important piece of green technology in future and why?
Dingle and Strang: There are several alternative fuel technologies, such as new battery and fuel cell technology, but LNG ticks all the boxes for reducing our emissions right now. None of the alternatives really drive a step change in the way LNG does; it will be the first major step on the road to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. We’re waiting to see what goals, timelines and milestones will be outlined in the IMO’s long-term GHG strategy, and we think this will drive new technologies. We also see significant improvement in big data. We are collecting more and more big data and using it in an intelligent way to improve performance, which then reduces emissions.

Mitchell: To date, our company has used scrubbers, specifically closed-loop scrubber technology, on numerous vessels to minimise emissions while burning heavy fuel oil. There has been a move towards LNG and fuel cells that, if developed correctly, will drastically reduce the carbon footprint of vessels. It will be interesting to see how this is applied to the cruise industry as there are many challenges associated with it that still need to be worked out.

Meier: We’re actively working on further developing environmentally friendly cruises, but it’s difficult to predict what progress we’ll make. Certainly, the growing level of awareness in society means that guests will increasingly expect that cruise companies like TUI will sail ships in a manner that has hardly any impact on the environment. The adaptation of LNG-based technology is moving forward and we’re certain that once the infrastructure and the regulatory framework in the ports is established, it will be an important step towards a greener cruise concept.

Vogel: The substitution of fossil fuels due to their high environmental impact will unquestionably play a key role in helping the industry become greener. For years, steps have been taken to gradually reduce the sulphur content in fuel, but this measure is not enough. The great revolution will come with the widespread use of new clean fuels, such as LNG.

Please outline your company’s annual goal for reducing its environmental footprint.
Dingle and Strang: Carnival has already achieved 23.4% of the 25% 2020 sustainability goal it set for reducing its carbon footprint from the 2005 baseline. We equipped 41% of the fleet with scrubbers and we’re on track to hit our aim of increasing advanced wastewater purification system technology by 10% because we’ve increased fleetwide capacity coverage by 1%. In addition, we expect to hit our 5% waste reduction goal, but we’re lagging on the goal to produce more water from seawater.

Mitchell: We have a goal to reduce our fuel consumption by 2% annually, which will help to decrease our carbon footprint. This is part of our ISO 14001 certification and environmental programme.

Meier: The long-term goal is to operate a cruise fleet with the one of the lowest levels of emissions in the world from 2025. Our environmental strategy is divided into the areas of energy efficiency, reducing emissions, climate protection, resource protection, environmental awareness, inclusion of interest groups, supply chain sustainability, and transparent progress reports. TUI’s environmental targets for 2016 included reducing carbon dioxide emissions per person per overnight stay (pppos) by 5% compared with 2015, lowering SOx emissions pppos by 15%, decreasing the fuel consumption of the fleet by 2%, reducing the quantity of waste pppos by 2%, and minimising water consumption pppos by 2%.

Vogel: All environmental measures are set out in our ambitious Save the Waves programme, which goes beyond international regulations. Our main objective is to reduce the waste we generate, both solids and liquids. In this sense, we use recycled, non-polluting materials whenever viable and if this is not possible, we recycle as much as we can. We treat greywater and blackwater, and we’re also progressively increasing the use of cleaner fuels with less sulphides. We always optimise the use of electrical energy and propulsion to reduce consumption, or optimise ballast operations to prevent the intrusion of organisms into other ecosystems.

What is the most challenging environmental regulation/requirement your company is facing and why?
Dingle and Strang: While we support and comply with waste disposal requirements in the Baltic, we’re concerned that port reception facilities will not be ready. Our ballast water equipment, which complied with IMO regulations, no longer meets the more onerous requirements of the US Coast Guard but there is now more clarity regarding these rules, which is helpful. However, we don’t see the introduction of a NOx ECA in the North Sea in 2021 as particularly challenging. We don’t yet know what the requirements for GHG will be so it is too early to talk about these.

Mitchell: With our industry operating in all areas around the world and the regulations constantly evolving and changing, keeping up to date and in compliance is challenging, but an extremely important task.

Meier: Our policy is to go above and beyond, which means that we’ve already met and exceeded upcoming standards, including the 0.5% sulphur cap for 2020. Our ships are operating scrubber technology worldwide and reducing sulphur levels in their exhaust to less than 0.1%. We see challenges in the infrastructure of port facilities, particularly because not all ports meet our standards regarding wastewater collection, or processing and recycling solid waste. In some destinations, it’s quite difficult for our environmental officers to find waste vendors that recycle the waste properly. This is something that must be improved and we see port agencies and the cruise industry working hand in hand to do so.

Vogel: We consider the regulations regarding fuel with reduced sulphides in ECAs as a challenge due to their economic impact on operations. It is necessary to increase the provision for the purchase of these fuels and make an investment in the ships’ engines to adapt them to burn this type of fuel.

Share this story

Susan Parker
By Susan Parker
30 May 2017

Theme picker