How MSC Cruises is powering up sustainability

Linden Coppell speaks with Elly Yates-Roberts about how MSC Cruises is working to improve its own sustainability efforts, as well as those of the whole shipping industry

How MSC Cruises is powering up sustainability
As part of its social sustainability goals, MSC Cruises hopes to have equal numbers of male and female crew members by 2025

In recent years, sustainability has been a major factor in the evolution and continued improvement of the cruise industry. It is also something that MSC Cruises is prioritising in an attempt to acknowledge its own environmental responsibility and to drive the efforts of the industry as a whole.

“The oceans and seas have always been at the heart of MSC Cruises and we feel a deep responsibility to preserve and protect them,” says Linden Coppell, director of sustainability at MSC Cruises. “We have a long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship and we continuously look at ways in which we can make further beneficial progress, both in our practices and also with the introduction of innovative, effective and leading-edge technologies to lower the environmental impact of our cruise operations and all activities ashore.”

One of the ways that the cruise line is achieving this is by reducing localised air pollutants from its ships, which mainly comprise nitrogen and sulphur oxides. At the beginning of 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) introduced its sulphur cap which required that the amount of sulphur in fuel used in cruise ships be reduced from 3.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent.

“This is one of the most significant environmental regulations to be put in place at an international level for shipping,” says Coppell. “As a result, our ships are fitted with exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) to reduce the sulphur emissions to below the limit, or we use low-sulphur fuels.

“Eleven of our 17 ships are fitted with hybrid versions of EGCS which, although are more costly, allow wash water to be collected in more environmentally sensitive sea areas and held onboard in tanks for eventual discharge at port. Our other ships use low-sulphur fuel exclusively.” MSC Cruises has further plans to keep its emissions low.

“Our nitrogen and sulphur oxide emissions will be reduced even further when we introduce the first of our five LNG-powered ships, MSC World Europa, in 2022,” Coppell explains. “LNG is much more efficient than traditional fuels and will potentially also reduce carbon emissions by up to 20 per cent.”

All of MSC’s new ships, starting with MSC Grandiosa which was launched in November 2019, must also meet the strict IMO Tier III nitrogen oxide standards, which require the fitting of selective catalytic converters (SCR) to convert nitrogen oxide into nitrogen and water. “This means that all of our future newbuilds will be equipped with both SCR and hybrid-EGCS, or else be powered by LNG,” says Coppell. “We hope that bio or synthetic non-fossil fuel-based LNG will become available in the future so that the whole shipping sector can fully take advantage of this as a truly sustainable fuel.” The company is committed to continue improving its sustainability efforts, for example by setting itself a goal to improve fuel efficiency by 2.5 per cent per year, which will also reduce its carbon intensity by the same amount.

“We are striving to reach this goal in a number of ways,” says Coppell. “We are working in partnership with our shipbuilders – both Chantiers de l’Atlantique and Fincantieri – to ensure our ships meet or exceed their design capability. We have developed a ‘twin ship’ system which allows a virtual ship to operate under the same conditions as a ship would do at sea. We can then make comparisons in fuel use and power efficiency between the ideal virtual energy demands and the actual operations. The aim is for those ashore to work closely with our crew to reduce the gap.” MSC Cruises is also hoping to test solid oxide fuel cells which, if successful, could produce electricity onboard its ships more effectively than internal combustion engines. But its environmental efforts do not begin and end with energy and power.

“Beyond fuel use and emissions, we are also looking at other aspects of the ship’s operational performance, including reducing water demand and ensuring our ships meet stringent wastewater discharge requirements,” Coppell explains. “Our newest classes of ships have advanced wastewater treatment technology onboard which means the treated water leaving the ship is almost tap-water quality.”

Sustainability is most often associated with the environment, but social sustainability is also a major component of the common buzzword, and something MSC Cruises is well aware of. “We are proud to say that we have more than 120 nationalities working within the business, many of these on our ships,” says Coppell. “Extensive training around the world enables us to provide comprehensive coaching and development opportunities for our colleagues, with many long-service employees reaching high levels of seniority within the business. Gender equality is another important facet of our company values and by 2025 we hope to reach 50 per cent female crew onboard our fleet.”

While the cruise industry as a whole has implemented initiatives and goals in order to adapt to the ever-changing natural world and desires of the public, there is space for more.

“The industry needs to continue to communicate the efforts it has made including the excellent results shown by new ship technologies, and the associated efficiency improvements,” says Coppell. “We must carry on improving our efficiencies, for example by retrofitting existing vessels where feasible, designing new ships that are a better fit for a more environmentally conscious world, and working to ensure a commercial scale availability of alternative sustainable fuels.

“As a company, we believe it is our responsibility to share the work that we are doing to help improve the understanding of our business and demonstrate our commitment to go above and beyond the extensive and complex compliance regulations around the world.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts
14 October 2020

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