20 Nov 2018 World leisure: news, training & property
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Leisure Management
2016 Review

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Leisure Management - Cruise control

Talking Point

Cruise control

Cruising is the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry. However, as it expands, ships grow bigger, causing concerns about pollution – especially in cities where they dock. Kath Hudson reports

Kath Hudson
Royal Caribbean's MS Harmony of the Seas, the largest passenger cruise ship in the world

Royal Caribbean’s 16-deck-high Harmony of the Seas is an example of the new style of monster cruise liner, developed to meet customer demand in this fastest-growing sector of the tourism industry.

These floating cities, accommodating up to 9,000 passengers and crew, have a myriad of on-board food and beverage and entertainment facilities. But is as much investment going into the environmental impact as it is the guest experience? And how much of an environmental problem do these cruise liners pose?

The Environmental Protection Agency says that each day an average cruise ship emits more sulphur dioxide than 13 million cars, because they run off dirty bunker fuel which isn’t allowed on land.

Research into air pollution on ships lags behind research into pollution caused by cars and forest fires, but Dr Matt Loxham, research fellow at the University of Southampton, says air pollution is estimated to lead to around 3.5m – 4m premature deaths worldwide each year and some 65,000 of these are attributable to the wider shipping industry.

“There is mathematical evidence to suggest the biggest death tolls are in busy shipping areas with big populations, particularly in Southeast Asia and Northern Europe,” Loxham says.

Southampton, Europe’s busiest cruise terminal, is one of nine UK cities cited by the World Health Organisation as breaching air quality guidelines even though it has little manufacturing.

As cruise ships now start to broaden their geographic range, with Crystal going into the Arctic, many groups, including Arctic officials and the Nunavet government are also calling for the size of cruise ships to be reduced and for the number of ships to be controlled, saying the small communities can’t handle the influx of tourists.

What is the extent of the problem, what needs to be done, and are improvements being made? We asked the experts.

We asked four cruise industry experts to share their thoughts

Sotiris Raptis Shipping and aviation officer Transport and Environment


Sotiris Raptis

Cruise ships represent an environmental problem. One cruise ship emits as many air pollutants as 5 million cars going the same distance. They use a lot more power than container ships, consuming the same amount of fuel as whole towns.

They use heavy fuel oil that isn’t allowed on land. Even when they burn low sulphur fuel, it’s 100 times worse than road diesel. Research shows air pollution from shipping causes 50,000 premature deaths a year in Europe, at an annual cost to society of €58bn by 2020.

At the moment there is no meaningful regulation in place: the shipping industry is very conservative and resistant to changes from either the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) or the EU. This is why the industry wasn’t explicitly referenced in the Paris Agreement.

At the moment there is no cap on CO2 emissions from ships and marine fuel burnt by ships is tax free. From 2019, EU emissions monitoring systems will make information publicly available regarding CO2 emissions and energy efficiency data per ship. A similar system which is currently being negotiated at IMO is likely to keep this data secret.

However, changes are hopefully afoot. A global 0.5 per cent sulphur cap will be in place by 2020, so ships will have to use cleaner fuel.

The IMO is also reviewing design efficiency standards for new ships (EEDI), another test of IMO’s climate ambition after Paris. More stringent design efficiency standards would lead to more efficiency of fuel consumption and less emissions.

Recent studies have found that newly-built ships covered by the design fuel efficiency standard have much the same efficiency performance as those not covered. This is because the current targets are too weak. The EU is considering the inclusion of the shipping sector in its 2030 climate commitment, through a climate fund under the emissions trading scheme (ETS). This measure would reduce CO2 emissions as well as facilitate investments in innovative technologies in the sector.

"One cruise ship emits as many air pollutants as five million cars going the same distance"

Bud Darr Senior vice president, technical & regulatory affairs Cruise Lines International Association


Bud Darr

The cruise industry continues to steadily grow and is set to continue growing for the foreseeable future. In 2015, CLIA Cruise Line Members carried 23.2 million passengers on approximately 300 oceangoing ships, generating £91.3bn in economic impact worldwide. This year, the cruise industry is expected to carry 24.2 million guests. Travellers find cruising to be an excellent holiday option, offering a combination of exciting destinations and excellent value.

An average cruise holiday is seven days, visiting four or five destinations. Each typical port call can provide an estimated £60,600 to the local community, as guests spend the day shopping, taking excursions, eating lunch and enjoying other on-shore activities.

Our guests’ experience hinges on a pleasant, clean environment, and we take seriously our environmental responsibility. Our commitment makes sense from both a business standpoint and a moral standpoint. To have a sound and sustainable business, we must do our part to protect and preserve the environment.

CLIA members continue to develop the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel, investing more than £6.07bn. Currently, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises have announced plans to build up to eight new ships, with the first to be in service in 2019, running principally on LNG, and more lines may follow suit. These ships are planned to be built by Meyer-Werft and STX France. Some significant regulatory, commercial and logistics issues had to be resolved prior to these bold commitments being made, giving due regard to the very high capital investment required and the relatively long planned service life for a modern cruise ship.

The cruise industry continually challenges itself with the design and operation of ships resulting in a £7.58m investment in new environmental technologies and cleaner fuels. Also, a great deal of research, investment and development goes into creating new generations of ships and upgrading older ships. As the cruise and the maritime industry as a whole continues to implement and develop new environmental technologies, we look forward to continuing to raise the bar on environmental performance.

"We look forward to continuing to raise the bar on environmental performance"

Liz Batten Spokesperson Southampton Clean Air


Liz Batten

Southampton has a serious pollution problem. Most of the city is above the legal limit, even in pedestrianised areas. When the Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas docked, it raised a lot of concerns about the increasing size of cruise ships and the number of visits. There are 600 visits a year from cruise liners, so the issue is significant. As well as from the ships, there is also pollution caused by the traffic in and out of the city.

When cruise ships chug around the planet they burn bunker oil which is full of sulphur and creates the worst emissions. When they are approaching the English Channel and the Isle of Wight they are meant to switch to less polluting fuel, but this is still higher in sulphur than cars are allowed to use. While in port they use diesel generators because they still need huge amounts of power.

There are other options available: towing ships in with electric tugs and then using electrical hook ups. Some shipping is being built using alternative means, such as LNG which is lower in emissions, or a mixture of electric and diesel and retrofitting engines.

Some ports, such as Los Angeles, are offering electric hook ups, which alleviates the issue in docks, but there is no sign of that happening here. As the council sold the docks to Associated British Ports, they have no control over what happens and can only beg and plead.

"Some ports, such as Los Angeles, are offering electric hook ups, which alleviates the issue in docks"

Marcie Keever Oceans and Vessels Programme Director Friends of the Earth


Marcie Keever

Good work is being done to make cruises more environmentally friendly, but we still need to have a concerted effort from the industry, as well as people who take cruise vacations. The Friends of the Earth produces the Cruise Ship Record Card, so people can make an informed choice when they spend their money. We encourage them to choose companies from the top of the list.

The main things we look at are sewage and greywater, and air pollution emissions. Disney comes out top: it has four ships, and is growing fast. From a sewage point of view, Royal Caribbean is doing well, it has one more ship to retrofit and then its fleet of 25 ships will be running off the most advanced sewage treatment systems.

At the other end of the scale, Carnival has only done three of its 24 ships. Older sewage treatment systems give minimal treatment before discharging into the water and an average cruise ship, with 3,000 passengers and crew, produces 21,000 gallons of sewage a day. They also dump up to eight times as much grey water from sinks, showers and baths.

Across the board cruise lines are still using dirty bunker fuel. Bunker fuel is a residual fuel left after the refining process and is exponentially dirtier than on road diesel fuel. The US has an emissions control area, so ships must use cleaner fuel within 200 nautical miles of the coast.

Some lines are now starting to use cleaner fuels, and are retrofitting with scrubbers (which ‘scrub’ pollution from the smokestacks) and are looking to install diesel PM (particulate matter) filters like you see on buses and trucks. Princess Cruise Lines has a scrubber on every ship and has invested heavily in on-shore energy at ports on the west coast of America, so the ships no longer need to run their engines in port. Royal Caribbean and other lines are also installing scrubbers.

From a public health point of view, it is very important that this happens. Air pollution can travel a long way and millions of dollars would be saved in healthcare if ships ran off cleaner fuel. By 2030, up to 31,000 early mortalities will be avoided in the US due to its cleaner fuel mandate.

Within the next two to three years, we would like to see all the major cruise lines install the best sewage treatment systems, and reduce air pollution with scrubbers and selective catalytic reduction technology, along with diesel particulate filters, which mean ships have to burn cleaner fuel. After a campaign from the NGO NABU in Germany, the cruise line AIDA is doing this.

However, while we see improvements in one direction, other worrying developments are afoot as cruise liners start to go further afield. Crystal runs a month-long cruise into the Arctic, through the Northwest passage. This is only accessible as a result of climate change, which the industry is contributing to. We are concerned that they are taking a ship which has an older marine sanitation device, into one of the most pristine places on earth. One of the British government’s research vessels is going as an escort. Is this an appropriate use of a vessel whose main job is to investigate climate change?

"Crystal runs an Arctic cruise through the Northwest passage. This is only accessible as a result of climate change, which the industry is contributing to"

Originally published in Leisure Management 2016 issue 1

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