Why sustainability is at the heart of cruising

PONANT’s Wassim Daoud and Royal Caribbean Group’s Nick Rose discuss environmental initiatives

Why sustainability is at the heart of cruising
Celebrity Flora’s eco-conscious design and green technologies make her one of the world’s most environmentally friendly cruise ships

By Rebecca Barnes |

How important is a robust sustainability programme for cruise lines, and what sustainability practices do you already have onboard your ships?

Wassim Daoud, head of sustainability and corporate social responsibility at PONANT, and officer at PONANT Foundation: Ponant’s commitments are an integral part of the company’s status and a priority for its management. We have created a Sustainable Development & Corporate Social Responsibility department that reports directly to our CEO and co-founder, Jean Emmanuel Sauvée, and have an environmental officer present onboard each ship. In support of this, Ponant has initiated a series of unprecedented environmental initiatives. These include: the use of the cleanest maritime fuels, the installation of catalytic converter for nitrogen oxide elimination, shore power, carbon offsetting for 150 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, waste sorting and recycling, biological treatment of sewage water, and the reduction of single-use plastics.

Nick Rose, director of environmental programmes at Royal Caribbean Group, parent company of Celebrity Cruises: The oceans are critical to our business and conserving their health is our responsibility – and we take it very seriously. This means having oversight at senior executive and board level and setting ambitious sustainability targets that push us forward. For our parent company Royal Caribbean Group, reducing energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants is a critical part of the environmental stewardship strategy. Our approach includes initiatives in both marine and hotel operations – on the marine side, we’ve introduced initiatives including air lubrication systems, air purification systems and most recently shore power, as well as a host of operational measures that help optimise the ships’ trim and path through the water. On the hotel side, we’ve implemented heat capture systems and are exploring fuel cells to power hotel operations. Our Save the Waves programme began as a waste management programme. Today 100 per cent of our fleet is equipped to be landfill free – this is a result of our Green Hub programme that has vetted waste operators at key global ports to ensure that waste, including recyclables, is properly handled. We have also taken action to reduce single-use plastics across our fleet and, in two years, we’ve reduced our consumption by 60 per cent.

How are you working with the ports and destinations you visit?

WD: Approaching seldom-visited places by sea promises a privileged discovery of little-known cultures and populations who continue a traditional way of life, often on the lands of their ancestors. Without profound respect for these people, we would not be accepted. When planning every single one of our expedition cruises, we work closely with the local communities – they are the ones who decide what they want to share from their cultures and environments. Furthermore, we are working with the main ports to install onshore power connection for our ships.

NR: Ensuring we have vibrant and healthy destinations in the future is critical to the success of our business. That’s why we have endorsed the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) standards for sustainable tourism and engaged our tour operators to become certified. To date, nearly 2,000 of our tours have undergone the process and are committed to delivering a sustainable holiday experience. We believe sustainable tourism demands a multi-stakeholder approach. Over the past few years we have worked with local governments and partners such as World Wildlife Fund to support various GSTC destination assessments. We want to understand the local’s perspective and work together to make a difference. At our private destination in Haiti, for example, we operate a grammar school for children of the surrounding villages and offer adult job training in the evenings.

How do you respond to critics who say that cruising is unsustainable and bad for the environment?

WD: Guests come aboard to enjoy an unforgettable voyage and discover the planet’s natural beauty and meet its inhabitants. This experience of expanding one’s horizons and personal growth gives guests the opportunity to share our wonder and emphasise the need to protect the environment. Our deep belief is that when people understand the world, they care more deeply and take responsibility for it. Guests are transformed by the cruises and, in turn, become environmental ambassadors. Moreover, Ponant’s characteristics are to be considered: our ships are modern and small in size.

NR: Our response has much to do with information. There are a number of misconceptions on cruise ship operations and, more often than not, we will invite individuals or groups to see our operation first-hand. We believe it’s important to be transparent about our ships’ inner workings and our efforts of continuous improvement. The truth is that cruise ships are cleaner than ever before and the technology is improving with each new class of vessels we build. Tourism relies on a beautiful environment, which is why we are working with leading institutions in a constant quest for improvements to protect and sustain our environment far into the future.

What innovative, energy-efficient technologies and initiatives are you investing in for the future?

WD: Ponant has invested over €1 billion (US$ 1.18 billion ) in building a modern fleet, with the goal of achieving the sector’s highest standards. In addition, the ships’ smaller capacity limits propulsive power and reduces the quantity of fuel we consume and emissions we release. Currently, we are working on an innovative project using digital navigation. Our ships will also be fitted with an electronic assistance system that will ensure optimal fuel consumption. With our forthcoming polar exploration vessel, Le Commandant-Charcot, the chance to sail on a hybrid-electric ship running on LNG represents the ultimate embodiment of Ponant’s commitment to sustainable tourism.

NR: Energy efficiencies are always top of mind at Royal Caribbean Group. We are committed to a 20 per cent reduction in energy use with each new class of ship introduced. We are also exploring different energy solutions such as LNG and even fuel cells for our next class of ship – the Icon class. Solutions and innovations, when possible, are then retrofitted and introduced to the previous generation of ships. Additionally, we have looked to renewal energy through a wind farm project that will offset our carbon up to 10 per cent annually.

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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