Working together to create a sustainable future

Aimilia Papachristou tells Rebecca Gibson how MedCruise collaborates with partners to help cruise port members achieve their environmental goals

Working together to create a sustainable future
Spain’s Motril Cruise Port is one of many MedCruise members aiming to reduce its environmental impact

Finding ways to reduce emissions, develop renewable fuels and increase sustainability are now top priorities for organisations across the maritime industry as they seek to play their part in slowing down climate change. Aimilia Papachristou, secretary general of MedCruise, explains how the association is helping more than 140 ports and 34 associate members in 21 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe to minimise the environmental impact of cruise operations.  

Why is boosting sustainability and minimising environmental impact an important goal for businesses operating in the cruise industry? 

The global cruise industry has experienced remarkable growth since 1990, adapting to guest requests to successfully create specialised products that meet the diverse vacation needs of various target groups. Cruise ports and local communities have welcomed this growth and developed marketing strategies to ensure they are included in cruise itineraries.  

Over the past few years, ports and destinations have increasingly focused on ‘going green’ due to climate change and the need to comply with requirements such as the International Maritime Organization’s agenda for reducing greenhouse gases, the EU Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Directive, the new Port Reception Facilities Directive, and the EU Sulphur Directive. Consequently, sustainability is now a key condition for the growth of cruise activities worldwide. 

What are some of MedCruise member ports’ biggest environmental concerns today? 

The environmental performance of any port is a crucial factor of its overall performance. Environmental sustainability has become a factor of competitiveness and ports’ priorities change as conditions evolve. In 2020, air quality was one of the top 10 environmental priorities for European sea ports, followed by climate change, which first reached the top 10 list of European ports’ environmental priorities in 2017. Energy efficiency and noise reduction were third and fourth on the list of key concerns in 2020. 

Regulatory compliance is the main driver for ports investing to enhance their environmental performance, but other factors include societal pressure, direct economic benefits, corporate conscience, operational improvements and gaining a competitive advantage. 

Which solutions or best practices would you encourage your members to invest in to help overcome these issues? 

Every port has different needs when it comes to making its infrastructure greener. Decisions on green infrastructure investments should be made in in consultation with multiple institutions and in cooperation with the port users and stakeholders, as there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each port must also consider its executive management philosophy and the local and global socio-political environment.  

MedCruise partners with other associations, cruise lines, environment-related companies to keep up to date with developments, share best practices and provide its members with the information they need for extensive consultations with port stakeholders when developing infrastructure to meet new environmental requirements. We work together and commit to actions.  

Tell us about the key environmental sustainability projects that MedCruise members are currently working on. 

MedCruise ports continuously upgrade their cruise terminal infrastructures to improve their environmental performance. Currently, six MedCruise ports are developing projects to provide hydrogen to ships and our members are working on a total of 27 projects related to renewable energies, 11 associated with green fuel and 10 linked to LNG. 

What are MedCruise’s own environmental sustainability goals and what measures have you implemented to achieve them? 

The clear commitment of the European Green Deal is for Europe to be the first climate-neutral continent via a 90 per cent reduction in transport-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (among other goals). Decarbonisation, reducing emissions and meeting the demands of public institutions and industry bodies challenge our member ports to operate in a more efficient and sustainable way. In addition, MedCruise’s Energy Efficiency and Environmental Sustainability Working Group focuses on finding green solutions for ports and all the environmental management challenges its members face.

This article was first published in the 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
17 January 2022

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