Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2023

54 Hurtigruten Norway and Ponant are not only spending millions of dollars on research and development projects to develop carbon neutral ships, but they have also committed to introduce such vessels by 2030. This is 20 years earlier than the UN’s net zero goals.” Expedition operators also proactively advocate the need for environmental and societal stewardship in the ecologically sensitive environments and destinations their ships visit. “Respect for the environment is embedded in the DNA of the expedition cruise sector,” says Marozaite. “While conventional cruise ships continue to become larger each year, expedition ships remain relatively small. Most operators voluntarily self-regulate through organisations like International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators and the Association of Arctic Tour Operators, and where regulations do not apply, they often extend good practices of wildlife viewing and engagement with local communities in their own standard operating procedures.” Many expedition operators also host activities to advance scientific research onboard their vessels. “The projects would otherwise be unlikely to occur at the same frequency due to high research costs and difficulty accessing remote destinations such as Antarctica or the Arctic,” says Marozaite. “Through citizen science projects onboard the ships and the work of organisations such as ORCA, we’re learning about the movement and high concentration areas of marine life, so we can adapt ship speeds to reduce strikes.” While ECN is predominantly focused on promoting and expanding the expedition cruise sector, it is also committed to engaging with cruise brands and the travel trade community on the complex aspects of sustainability. “Our growth must be achieved hand-in-hand with the ambitions of the expedition cruise sector to become a fully sustainable form of travel.” explains Marozaite. “We’ll establish tools to help the travel trade community talk confidently and authentically with their clients about sustainability in the context of the expedition cruising industry. And, wherever possible, we’ll help expedition cruise brands to reduce their impact on the unique destinations they visit and avoid issues such as overcrowding.” ECN will prioritise sustainability internally too. “We have an overall aim to become a carbon-neutral organisation within three years,” says Marozaite. “We’ll look at everything from our supply chain activities to fair pay and diversity and inclusion for new hires.” To demonstrate its commitment to these goals, ECN hosted a dedicated webinar on sustainability in the context of expedition cruising within the first three months of establishing the network. “We also created a sustainability survey for our expedition cruise operator members that we shared with the trade media and FEATURED INTERVIEW Photo: Hurtigruten Expeditions Hurtigruten Expeditions offers activities such as kayaking in the Galápagos islands