Cruise ship climate footprint is worsening

2019-08-31T11:19:17+00:00 August 31st, 2019|Environment|

Only a small number of cruise ship fleets are becoming cleaner, while the industry by large continues to rely on heavy fuels and fails to employ exhaust technology, according to the latest report by German non-governmental organisation Nabu.

Last week, NABU presented its cruise ship ranking 2019.

Climate footprint of cruise ships is especially worrying, as all ships are fuelled by fossil fuels producing enormous greenhouse gas emissions. Two sailing ships alone are scoring better, but they do not represent a commonplace type of ship, the organisation said.

NABU CEO, Leif Miller, commented, ‘The cruise ship industry’s failure to embrace climate protection is a slap in the face of our youth. Nobody can pretend to be unaware of today’s climate crisis – it is our joint responsibility to act now. Nevertheless, suppliers flood the market with more giant vessels every year, all being operated by fossil fuels. That’s not keeping up with the times and it is irresponsible, too. Cruise ships can only have a future if they use zero-emission technologies.’

According to the report, heavy fuel operated diesel engines still dominate the scene. Recently, more and more cruise ships started to include LNG fuelled engines, but LNG is still a fossil fuel and its extraction process is in part heavily damaging to the environment. In addition, the so-called methane slip has to be taken into account, by which the highly potent greenhouse gas methane is emitted into the atmosphere.
While gas powered engines do emit less air pollutants in comparison to marine diesel and heavy fuels, they are not performing better in terms of the fleet’s climate footprint, NABU said.

Daniel Rieger, head of transport policy, added, ‘Tax exemptions for marine fuels are fatal in the view of today’s climate crisis and urgently need to be ended. As long as the use of fossil fuels is massively subsidised and emission and energy efficiency standards of ships remain derisory, a switch to zero-emission engines will not take effect.

‘We urgently need to make the regulatory framework tighter in order to foster development and broader use of zero emission technologies in the shipping industry. It’s the only way to make the industry climate neutral by 2050,’ he said.

This year, NABU covered technologies in the field of energy supply and propulsion systems for the first time, listed as a separate category. The two sailing ships alone, as well as those ships with a shore power connection, using electricity from renewables while in port, are scoring better.

Hurtigruten set new standards with their hybrid ship ‘Roald Amundsen’ – while still employing diesel-electric engines, the energy efficiency gain reduces C02 emissions.

In the air pollutants category, AIDA came first with‘AIDAnova’. AIDA’s Italian parent group, Costa Crociere is on a par with its LNG operated ‘Costa Smeralda’. The third place is awarded to three Hapag-Lloyd ships: ‘Europa 2’, winner in 2013, as well as the new expedition cruise ships ‘Hanseatic Nature’, and ‘Hanseatic Inspiration’.

Far behind, the industry’s giants MSC and Royal Caribbean took last place at all times, while German company TUI Cruises was downgraded to 13th place in the table.

Particle filters and nitrogen oxide catalysts are still rarely used. At least French cruise ship operator, Ponant, is the first company to have announced a voluntarily phase out heavy fuel oil setting the course for a timely exhaust gas treatment.

Meanwhile, NABU demanded that all companies replace heavy fuel oil with a comprehensive use of exhaust technology for all their ships.

Malte Siegert, head of climate policy at NABU Hamburg, said: “A comprehensive reduction of air pollutants is technologically possible and also economically feasible for a mere fraction of the construction costs of a new ship. It’s a scandal that we still see ships today, which are built with a standard that dates back to decades ago. Technologies for new constructions as well as retrofitting are widely available.

‘It is crucial to make these new standards mandatory and to have them installed in all ships, as soon as possible. In addition, mandatory shore power connections are long overdue for all European ports. In order to do so, cruise ship companies need to make a genuine commitment, but ports like Hamburg, need to employ shore power plants more widely, ie not only in Altona but also at the Harbour City and Steinwerder terminals, too,’ he said.