Sustainability Trends in Expedition Cruising

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by Hans Lagerweij, President of Albatros Travel

THE CRUISE INDUSTRY AND SUSTAINABILITY

 

The cruise industry is a hot topic in the global sustainability conversation, often for unflattering reasons. Princess Cruises’ recent illegal dump of plastic material in the Bahamas highlights a history of environmental violations. The cruise industry’s carbon emissions are under scrutiny, as the average large cruise ship emits as much carbon as 22,256 cars each year. To combat this, the industry has set itself some ambitious goals, including an industry-wide reduction of carbon emissions of 40% by 2030, and becoming carbon free by 2050. Adam Goldstein, Global Chair of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), claims “we need to play a leadership role in sustainable tourism”.

 

GROWTH OF EXPEDITION CRUISING

 

Expedition cruising is considered the next forefront in travel. Although expedition ships are much smaller, and pollute significantly less than bigger cruise ships, they attract a critical assessment from a different perspective. Expedition cruise ships visit the most fragile and threatened areas of our planet, like the Arctic and Antarctica. What do expedition cruise companies do to meet the sustainability challenges of today’s world?

 

EXPEDITION CRUISING AND DRIVE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

 

The various initiatives across the industry are:
1. Reduce carbon emissions and develop clean(er) energy
2. Reduce other footprint; garbage and waste
3. Use sustainable food sources
4. Sustainable visits to areas and communities
5. Create a decent and safe work environment
6. Promote conservation and building a legacy

 

REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS, DEVELOPING CLEAN(ER) ENERGY

 

The expedition cruise industry uses cleaner light fuels, as heavy fuels were banned in Antarctica in 2011. Therefore, most of the new build vessels in the industry can only burn “light” fuels (MGO).

 

Most new build vessels, like Sunstone Infinity class, have engines that are Tier 3 compliant, reducing emissions up to 80% versus older ships. Hurtigruten is experimenting with battery powered ships, like the Roald Amundsen. Hurigruten’s CEO, Daniel Skjeldam, is keen to pursue cleaner cruising, even banning heavy fuels in the Arctic. He argues against the use of so called “scrubbers” to reduce the emissions of heavy fuels; “It only moves the problem from the air into our oceans. It’s the emperor’s new clothing. We push very hard for more regulation instead of less regulation.”

 

There are other smaller initiatives in the industry to reduce emissions, like promoting energy-saving LED lights and hull paints with special non-toxic coatings to reduce fuel consumption by up to 5%.

 

REDUCE FOOTPRINT; GARBAGE AND WASTE

 

Fortunately, the expedition cruise industry took
the lead in removing single use plastics on their ships. Plastic straws have been removed from most ships and most operators reduce plastic waste by distributing refillable personal bottles and providing refill stations, like on the Lindblad, Silversea, Quark Expeditions and Albatros Expeditions ships. More companies are using eco-friendly bio-degradable detergents and cleaning materials. Argentina’s hub for Antarctica cruises now promotes a recycling initiative.

 

SUSTAINABLE FOOD SOURCES

 

Most expedition operators now consider sustainable food sources, though using locally farmed food can be challenging in remote areas. For example, Albatros Expeditions just announced that they will replace all coffees and teas on-board with fair-trade organic products.

 

SUSTAINABLE VISITS TO AREAS AND COMMUNITIES

 

The expedition cruise industry is heavily self-regulated by organizations like IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) and AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators). They are praised for their strict commitment to bettering the environment with policies to protect oceans, air and wildlife, as well as the unique social and cultural fabric of destinations. AECO Executive Director Frigg Jorgensen states “community engagement and ensuring local benefits of cruise tourism is critical for the future of the industry”.

 

CREATE A DECENT AND SAFE WORK ENVIRONMENT

 

In addition to mandatory compliance with international regulations, expedition cruise operators have implemented initiatives to promote crew welfare, such as compliance campaigns focused on occupational health and safety improvements, and onboard occupational trainings in deck, engine and hotel disciplines.

 

PROMOTING CONSERVATION AND BUILDING A LEGACY

 

Many expedition cruise companies support charities linked to their destinations, often by holding auctions on board. They also encourage passengers to take charge and help protect the areas they visit. For example, the Clean Up Svalbard initiative asks travelers to pick up trash during their visit.

 

FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS

 

Small ship cruising guide QuirkyCruise is currently compiling an “Eco survey” among 88 small ship lines. Co-owner Heidi Sarna is convinced that travelers are prepared to pay more for a “greener” cruise:
“especially in the small-ship niche I focus on, where passengers tend to be fairly well-educated, well-traveled and lovers of the environment”.

 

Despite these initiatives, there is a long road ahead. Creating a natural drive for sustainability within an organization is just the start. Sustainability is not the responsibility of a person or a department, but of everyone in the organization; therefore, it must become part of the company’s ethos

 

Please note: This article contains the sole views and opinions of Hans Lagerweij and does not reflect the views or opinions of Guidepoint Global, LLC (“Guidepoint”). Guidepoint is not a registered investment adviser and cannot transact business as an investment adviser or give investment advice. The information provided in
 this article is not intended to constitute investment advice, nor is it intended as an offer or solicitation of an offer or a recommendation to buy, hold or sell any security. Any use of this article without the express written consent of Guidepoint and Hans Lagerweij is prohibited.

 

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