In My World of Cruising and the Environment

By Tom Strang
SVP Maritime Affairs, Carnival Corp. & plc

Over the last ten years, the cruise industry has come a long way on its journey to becoming a greener industry.

It’s no secret that this is an industry which has previously been battered by mainstream media for its impact on the wider environment– but the tides have turned, and are continuing to do so.  Whereas recycling, incinerating and waste-processing were once considered cutting-edge on cruise ships just over a decade ago, such processes today are now fundamental.

And it doesn’t stop there. Because of new regulations set out by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), there is a greater drive than ever before to build ships that utilise cleaner fuels, such as LNG. The European Union is investing heavily in infrastructure that allows for the use of cleaner fuels, and we are seeing this being followed in the Far East and the US.

However, there is always more progress this industry can make – and with IMO’s 2020 sulphur cap in mind, I see this as an incredibly exciting challenge.

The impending IMO 2020 Sulphur Cap

In 2016, IMO announced that 2020 will be the date for reduction of marine fuel sulphur; meaning ships will be required to use alternative fuels with a lower sulphur content or continue with high-sulphur fuel oil in conjunction with exhaust gas cleaning systems.

Cruising has never been an industry to shy away from a challenge and there are two big hurdles for making the transition to LNG which we must tackle.

The first of the two hurdles is infrastructure. There are currently very few LNG bunker supply vessels available to deliver the quantity of LNG that we require in the locations that we need it.  Therefore, it is only by working together with carefully chosen partners that we can build the necessary infrastructure.

The second hurdle is upskilling crew. The new ship systems are ground-breaking and, while ferries have used LNG for some time, these will be prototype designs for us. As safety is always paramount we need to build a robust and reliable training and monitoring programme to ensure the safe use of these systems. At Carnival Corporation, we’re leaving this barrier behind with our own training establishment (the CSMART Academy, as part of the Arison Maritime Center in Almere near Amsterdam), where we have replicated the engineering control systems for our next generation LNG fuelled ships – meaning we are able to train our crews in their operation in the safety of a classroom.


Environmental factors will be discussed by cruise industry leaders at Seatrade Cruise Med

Mediterranean ports paving the way for LNG

Several ports around the world have stepped up to support making the future of LNG a top priority.

For example, Carnival Corporation recently worked with the Port of Barcelona to open the Helix Cruise Center, which will accommodate next-generation “green” cruise ships powered by LNG. Even before the opening of the new facility, however, the Port of Barcelona was at the forefront of advances in LNG as a power source. In 2017, Barcelona, working with Carnival Corporation, became the first cruise port in the Mediterranean with facilities to supply LNG, joining five other ports in Northern Europe, when it welcomed AIDA Cruises’ ground-breaking AIDAperla - the first ship in the Mediterranean with dual-fuel engines that can switch to LNG for power when in port. AIDAperla was supplied by truck with low-emission LNG many times while docked in the Port of Barcelona.

Its sister ship, AIDAprima, similarly pioneered the use of LNG in ports in Northern Europe. Like Carnival Corporation, our partner ports in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean are committed to reducing air emissions and improving air quality. We have worked closely with Marseilles and continue to work with Civitavecchia to make LNG bunkering a reality.

What does this mean for reducing air pollution?

LNG emits zero sulphur oxides (SOx) and virtually zero particulate matter (PM), as well as significantly lower nitrous oxides (NOx), and with best practices and appropriate technologies in place we can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 10-20%. As part of our effort to meet the IMO regulations and achieve our own goals, there was a strong interest to select and implement fuel sourcing that would dramatically reduce our rate of emissions and footprint.

In addition to LNG efforts, Carnival Corporation has been at the forefront of making significant progress in retrofitting existing ships with exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) that improve air emissions by reducing sulphur compounds and particulate matter from exhaust. More than 62% of our 100-plus fleet of ships have EGCS fitted to decrease sulphur and diesel particulate emissions.

These benefits drove Carnival Corporation to invest heavily in new greener technologies, like the use of LNG, and our hope is that by leading the way, Carnival can pioneer a new era of “green” cruising.

Challenges on the horizon

It’s not all plain sailing, though and there are still challenges facing the industry.

One of the biggest barriers is finding solutions that can meet all the varying regulations around the world, while also being solutions that are easily adoptable across the fleet. As organizations continue to enact safety regulations and codes demanding cleaner emissions, it is crucial for the cruise industry to adapt and build cruise ships that use cleaner fuel such as LNG.

In building LNG-powered cruise ships, the cruise industry will abide by increasing regulatory demands, and reducing air emissions’ overall impact on the environment. LNG exceeds all the statutory requirements that are currently in place regarding air emissions, and therefore it future-proofs the ships. It addresses all the major concerns related to local air pollution issues that are the major concern for local communities. 

At the same time we are being challenged to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and while LNG makes a significant contribution, we also need to investigate new ways to get to zero carbon by the end of the century.  This will require us to investigate new fuels like hydrogen, ammonia, fuel cells, and batteries; all of which are not ready yet for primetime (despite what you may hear), and will require considerable investment in R&D and logistics.

Technology is crucial.

It goes without saying that technology is essential for ensuring a greener industry. By tapping into new technologies, like the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems, the cruise industry can further enable responsible and sustainable practices that protect the oceans, seas and ports in which we operate.

For us, these technologies are crucial to achieving our ambitious sustainability and environmental goals that we are committed to. The exhaust gas cleaning technology is revolutionary because it drastically improves air emissions by reducing sulphur compounds and particulate matter from exhaust and therefore will drive significant benefits both for the company and more importantly for the environment.

As a driver for a more sustainable industry, we have not only invested heavily in new technology but are also now seeing a return on the investment we have made – particularly in respect to our exhaust gas cleaning systems. We clearly see that technology we have invested in delivers better environmental performance than many of the alternatives when it comes to the conventional fuels.

And as for the future? There’s plenty to be excited about.

To us, LNG is the future and we are excited to continue developing these technologies to continue to dramatically improve our environmental performance and air quality.

Something we are particularly excited about is AIDAnova; the largest ship in Carnival Corporation’s fleet and the newest for its growing German line, AIDA Cruises. Scheduled to launch in December 2018, AIDAnova is more than just a beautiful ship sailing its guests to exciting destinations - it heralds a major breakthrough in “green ship” technology for Carnival Corporation and the entire cruise industry. It ushers in a new age of cruise ships, the first in the world that can operate on cleaner LNG fuel both in port and at sea.

The world’s second fully LNG-powered ship, Costa Smeralda, currently under construction for Italy’s Costa Cruises, will follow in fall of 2019 - followed by Iona for P&O Cruises UK in May 2020.

Carnival Corporation has also ordered eight additional ships that will be powered entirely by LNG both in port and at sea. The first such ship in North America will be from the Carnival Cruise Line brand in 2020. The next-generation ships have also been ordered by Carnival Corporation for Costa Cruises (2021), two more for AIDA Cruises (2021 & 2023), Carnival Cruise Line and P&O Cruises UK (2022) and two for Princess Cruises (2023 & 2025).

We have a lot to look forward to in the coming years that will not only revolutionize the future of cruising but drive the future for an even cleaner, greener cruise industry.