Jos Dewing is managing director for EMEA at AE Expeditions
Expedition cruises allow guests to visit some of the most remote places in the world in comfort, combining a sense of exploration with luxurious accommodation. Yet these locations are also some of the most fragile in the world, and as the sector grows there is a significant responsibility on expedition operators to ensure that they remain unspoiled for future generations. It’s a responsibility which expedition cruise line AE Expeditions takes seriously, says Jos Dewing, managing director for EMEA at the company.
“We’ve ensured that our operations are carbon neutral for some time now, and we’re continuing to work through a long list of action points and targets in line with the sustainable development goals,” says Dewing. “We are also currently going for B Corporation certification, which is a social and environmental certification for profit-making companies. These efforts underline how we’re working as a business. We’re taking people to pristine, fragile environments, so it’s our duty to protect those environments.”
Dewing suggests that in addition to operating sustainable cruises, expedition cruise operators can also influence the attitudes of their guests long after their voyage.
“It’s about creating life-long ambassadors for the planet,” he says. “We’re taking people to these environments and inspiring them to care about the issues. They can then go back and influence their networks and take that message forward. Creating that kind of influence is a big part of what we do.”
Many expedition cruises are now offering the chance for guests to get involved in the scientific research taking place onboard their ships, a practice known as citizen science. AE Expeditions’ Citizen Science programme allows travellers to help experts collect and share important data on the natural environment they are visiting. While Dewing acknowledges the scepticism that such initiatives can be greeted with, he argues that they create a very real impact.
“When you first hear about citizen science, it can sound gimmicky,” says Dewing. “But it’s real data and real projects. At AE Expeditions, we’re able to mobilise an army of scientists that nongovernmental and research organisations couldn’t afford to send to the places we visit. They’re doing real research and they’re feeding back really important information.”
On some occasions, an expedition cruise allows guests to experience new scientific developments in real time. Dewing highlights an example of the unique educational experiences that expedition cruising can provide from a voyage around the UK.
“We were photographing gannets living on Grassholm Island off the coast of Wales with Miranda Krestovnikoff, the former president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB),” he explains. “Just that day, news had broken from the RSPB that they had detected the irises of gannets went black if they’d recovered from avian flu. Our photographer was able to take pictures of gannets showing black irises, then show them to all the passengers in the lecture theatre after dinner to explain the news. It was science in real time, and that’s what an expedition team can deliver. They can take passengers to the experience and demonstrate it first-hand in a way that’s very emotional and moving.”
With the climate emergency continuing to be a clear and present danger, however, the industry will need to continue its efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of its own operations. Dewing is optimistic that innovation will continue to push the industry closer to sustainability.
“Sustainability is getting to a point where guests expect it to be embedded by now,” he says. “Travel has been a bit slow – it wasn’t that long ago that we were just talking about taking plastic straws off ships – but it’s catching up. Companies are developing technologies to reduce the emissions produced by fuel, and certain operators are even looking at the possibility of fully electric ships using wind power. The future is really exciting, and the conversation is moving towards net zero, which is exactly where our aim needs to be.”
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.