Updated: Jul 3
In 2021, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has committed to reducing the industry’s carbon emissions by 50% by the year 2050. Since then, the maritime industry as a whole has been shifting towards a more sustainable future. As a part of the maritime industry, cruise lines also face the challenge of becoming more sustainable. After all, the industry needs all the help it can get to hit its goal.
If you’re at the helm of a cruise line, developing and executing eco-friendly strategies are among your most important responsibilities. If it feels challenging, it’s because it is. But you don’t have to go at it blindly. Many cruise lines have already adopted successful eco-friendly strategies that you can follow. Shipping lines’ sustainability strategies can also serve as an excellent reference for making your cruise line green.
How cruise ships impact the environment
To put things into perspective, it’s important to understand the adverse effects of cruise line operations on the environment. Overall, the maritime industry outputs 3% of the annual carbon emissions worldwide, about the same as the total output of a major industrial country such as Germany. The cruise industry, in particular, can emit more carbon dioxide than 12,000 cars combined. In a 2007 study, it was found that cruise ships en route to New Zealand were three times more polluting than airplanes.
Indirectly, the operations of cruise ships generate a larger carbon footprint. For instance, staying on a cruise ship for a night requires 12 times more energy than staying in a hotel. Various cruise lines are also known for dumping waste such as food waste, plastics, and sewage into the ocean.
The effect of cruise line operations on the environment goes beyond carbon emissions. While this presents a greater challenge, it also presents plenty of room for improvement.
Implement advanced wastewater treatment
Cruise ships have been releasing contaminated water onto the ocean for as long as they’ve been operating. Today, more and more ships use advanced technologies that allow them to treat sewage water on board. If you want to turn your cruise ship into a green ship, it’s necessary to have a waste-water treatment system capable of thoroughly cleaning waste water so it can be released into the ocean without adversely affecting marine life.
Explore alternative fuel options
Electric ship technology still has a few hurdles to overcome before seeing wide-scale use commercially. In the meantime, the best option for cruise ships is to explore cleaner fuel alternatives. Here are the top fuel alternatives for ships today:
LNG (liquefied natural gas) - LNG is the cleanest fossil fuel. The number of ships using LNG has been increasing in the previous years and the trend is expected to continue. Switching to LNG from the traditional Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) yields a huge decrease in emissions. But since LNG is mostly methane, minor leaks during production can result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Methanol - when produced using biomass, methanol is considered a renewable fuel, making it an excellent fuel alternative for ships. Unlike LNG and other alternatives, implementing methanol as a fuel source is more straightforward since it exists in liquid form. The primary drawback of methanol is the lack of technology for its commercial, larger-scale use.
Hydrogen - with water as its sole combustion product, hydrogen is widely considered a clean fuel. The problem lies with its production. Most hydrogen fuel today is considered gray, which emits plenty of greenhouse gasses in its production. Green hydrogen, however, is produced using renewable. With green hydrogen plants being built today, hydrogen is a prime candidate as a green fuel for ships.
Reduce fuel consumption
Another effective way of reducing the carbon footprint of cruise ships is by minimizing fuel consumption. Whether your ships are still running on HFO or cleaner alternatives, increasing fuel efficiency will cut down emissions. Here are some ways ships can consume less fuel:
Slow steaming - by sailing at slower speeds, cruise ships consume less fuel. to decrease fuel consumption. It’s become a common practice among sea vessels.
Optimized ship hulls - redesigning ship hulls for reduced drag can be expensive, but it can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 10%.
Route optimization - various tech tools allow ships to determine the best route possible. Voyage optimization and weather routing can help in meeting decarbonization targets and improve operational efficiency.
Cruise ships are notorious for producing tons of waste. Just a medium-sized cruise ship can produce 14,000 pounds of garbage a day. A large cruise ship can generate 210,000 gallons of sewage in a week-long voyage. Cruise ships have a number of methods for reducing waste and among them is source reduction.
By using more recyclable materials and reducing plastics, a cruise ship can cut down on solid waste. Some cruise ships ask guests to select their preferred food in advance so they don’t overproduce any food items. For reducing wastewater, installing eco-friendly shower heads can make a big difference.