Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2023

136 INTERVIEW Virgin Voyages may be relatively new to the oceans, having launched its first cruise ship Scarlet Lady in 2021, but the brand packs a punch globally and has no doubts where it is going with its sustainability agenda. When it comes to sustainability and social impact, first and foremost it is about building on the strong foundations that we have as a brand,” says Jill Stoneberg, senior director social impact and sustainability. “We like to talk about our purpose as an organisation. In a nutshell, it’s about creating positive change for people on the planet. Our strategy is pretty clearly defined.” For the cruise industry to get to net zero by 2050, it requires a full portfolio of options. “Behind the scenes we’re working on how we can achieve that goal, but there’s so much to do to get there,” says Stoneberg. “Ideally, we’d like to set interim carbon reduction targets, for example for 2030 and 2040, on that road.” While many cruise lines are designing new ships powered by alternative energy sources, such as fuel cells, or planning for future fuels, Virgin is taking a different route for its four ships. “Because decarbonisation has to happen at the scale and pace required, we’re solely focused on advanced waste-based drop-in fuels (i.e. secondgeneration biofuels) that can be used on our engines today,” says Stoneberg. In autumn 2022, Virgin entered into partnerships with three sustainable marine fuel providers: Argent Energy, GoodFuels and Twelve. “Our focus is on advancing those partnerships and ensuring that we will have access to that fuel as it becomes more readily available,” says Stoneberg. “Drop-in fuels do exist today but not on the commercial scale that is needed to provide the fuel on a regular, consistent basis and they aren’t affordable right now. “The behind-the-scenes work that is taking place is really on stakeholder engagement, talking to policymakers and working out that ideal state of what needs to happen for those fuels to meet robust sustainability standards and be available in the locations where we operate our ships.” In September 2022, Virgin partnered with independent expert organisation, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). “We see it as a key stakeholder because it’s going to ensure that any drop-in fuels we use meet robust sustainability standards and do not have any unintended consequences, such as deforestation,” says Stoneberg. “We’re not talking about firstgeneration biofuels. We’re talking about advanced waste-based fuels that don’t have any unintended Setting a carbon reduction road map Finding fossil-free, drop-in fuels for its fleet is one of Virgin Voyages’ key goals to help it reach net zero. Jill Stoneberg explains to Susan Parker how the company is building partnerships to make this happen Virgin Voyages is collaborating with sustainable marine fuel providers to develop affordable fossil-free, drop-in fuels for powering its ships