Cruising: How shipping companies want to make ships more environmentally friendly

Shore power and fuel batteries

VOf the 1,000 or so cruise ports that call at them around the world, only 18 currently offer shore power supply. That’s still manageable. Shore power is considered an important component on the way to climate neutrality.

So far, many ships have kept their engines running in port to supply themselves with electricity – with the associated exhaust gases, stench and CO2-Emissions. A ship with 2,000 passengers needs around 45,000 kilowatt hours of electricity for a ten-hour layover.

According to the Clia cruise association, the industry is quite ready for shore power use: 35 percent of the world’s cruise ships are already equipped for this (174 ships), and a further 22 percent are being converted. In Germany and Norway, three cruise piers each offer shore power: Rostock-Warnemünde, Hamburg and Kiel as well as Kristiansand, Trondheim and Bergen. Recently, shore power has also been offered in Southampton, UK.

Source: Getty Images; Montage: Infographic WORLD

North America is the global leader with shore power for ocean liners in San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Juneau and New York-Brooklyn, in Canada with Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver. There is only one plant in the Far East, in Shanghai.

Because the expansion of the global shore power grid will still take decades, there is an alternative: fuel cells. They can have ships with them piggyback to supply themselves with electricity independently – not just in port.

This is already being practiced: From May 2022, the “Aida Nova” will be the first large ocean-going cruise ship to be equipped with fuel cells for testing purposes, and the electricity produced in this way will be fed into the on-board network.

The new Hurtigruten ships for expeditions are already equipped with it. In 2023, the new building “Silva Nova” from Silversea Cruises will have fuel cells for the lay times. In the long term, however, fuel cells could even replace the combustion engine as an alternative drive.

Organic bar on the cruise ship

First a drink on board. Small ingredient, big effect. Sustainable changes that taste great are popular with cruise vacationers. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, invented the sustainable, drinkable cocktail “Pineapple Surplus”, in which leftover organic pineapple peels are fermented with honey and turmeric into a syrup in the on-board kitchen, topped up with tequila and passion fruit juice.

That went down really well. That’s why the US shipping company is now going one better. On the new “Norwegian Prima”, which will be put into service in August 2022, although still a conventional ship with fossil heavy fuel oil propulsion, the focus is on green show effects. A sustainable bar called “Metropolitan” opens on board.

Here you will find fully sustainable spirits, zero-waste cocktails and more than 20 biodynamic wines made using organic farming methods. There is a “botanical” gin, bottled by the Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana winery in Cádiz, which is bottled in recyclable glass bottles with wooden caps.

The special feature, however, is the new Signet cocktail: it will be called “Primadonna”, made from surplus banana peels and rum from Nicaragua. Flor de Caña is a premium rum that is carbon neutral and Fair Trade certified.

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The new organic bar is, of course, as far as sustainability is concerned, just a “drop in the ocean”, a drop in the ocean, all other 34 bars, lounges and restaurants on the ship are not particularly sustainable.

Other shipping companies have long had sustainable organic drinks on their menu: wines, lemonades, but also organic green tea with sea buckthorn and rose petals (“Mein Schiff” fleet), organic ice tea from fair trade (Aida) or organic coffee in Organic capsules (Hapag-Lloyd) and spritzer with cloudberry syrup and organic apple cider from Hurtigruten.

Cruise industry hopes for ammonia

It doesn’t have a good reputation: Ammonia stinks badly. But it’s easy to make, liquefies quickly, and is one of the most produced and transported chemicals in the world. But what does that have to do with the cruise? The industry has high hopes for this chemical. Because there is great interest in the possible use of ammonia as a climate-neutral energy source.

And time is pressing, the road to climate neutrality is long: The cruise association Clia, and thus also shipping companies such as TUI Cruises and Aida Cruises, have set themselves the goal of offering the first emission-free ships in 2030 – and then by 2040, or by 2050 at the latest, climate-neutral to be on the go.

So far, however, almost all steamers are still running on marine diesel or filtered heavy fuel oil. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is considered an interim solution, and six ships are already on the move with it, including the “Aida Nova” first, as well as the “Iona”, “Costa Smeralda”, “Costa Toscana”, “Mardi Gras” and the brand new “Aida”. Cosma”. 20 more LNG ships have been ordered or are under construction. But natural gas is ultimately only a fossil fuel, even if it is not quite as dingy. It is not emission-free.

For the naming of the LNG cruise ship "Aida Cosma" on April 9th ​​in Hamburg there was a big light show

There was a big light show at the christening of the LNG cruise ship “Aida Cosma” on April 9 in Hamburg

Source: pa/Laci Perenyi

On the high seas and on long tours, hybrid electric ships are unsuitable due to their insufficient storage capacity. They can only be used near the coast for slow cruising from port to port: such as Hurtigruten with the first hybrid expedition ships “Roald Amundsen” and “Fridtjof Nansen”. The “Otto Sverdrup” and almost all mail boats were also retrofitted with hybrid drives and battery packs.

That’s why the industry is relying on volatile hydrogen, but it’s not easy to fill up. To do this, it needs a carrier – such as the liquid ammonia mentioned at the beginning. The Leibniz Institute for Plasma Research and Technology in Greifswald, together with the Carnival Maritime ship management center in Hamburg and the port of Rostock, is currently conducting a feasibility study for Aida Cruises to determine whether an ammonia-hydrogen cruise ship could be built for the Baltic Sea by 2030. Of course without it smelling.

With solar sails in the fjords of Norway

There is only one type of ship that can sail with zero emissions: those with sails. But a whole cruise ship with sail masts? Sounds pretty crazy. Nevertheless, marine engineers in Norway are trying to develop one.

There is a solid reason for this: Norway has declared its fjords to be zero-emission areas by 2026 or by 2030 at the latest. So the pressure is on because these famous waterways are served by 190 cruise ships a year. After that they would have to stay outside. A technology is now based on solar sails.

In Norway, people are working on an electric cruise ship.  Batteries from photovoltaic cells embedded in a 5000 square meter solar sail are to be charged on it

In Norway, people are working on an electric cruise ship. Batteries from photovoltaic cells embedded in a 5000 square meter solar sail are to be charged on it are

Source: Maritime CleanTech

Norwegian industrial designer Maritime CleanTech is working on a futuristic electric cruise ship that could be ready by 2030. Batteries are charged by photovoltaic cells embedded in the 5000 square meter solar sail. Whether the cruise ship is feasible remains questionable.

The Norwegian shipping company Hurtigruten is also working on an emission-free ship. And the French shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique from St. Nazaire has been experimenting with wind power for years, including for ocean liners. The prototype of a giant sail called Solid Sail is due to be built on the Loire estuary in 2022: an 85 meter high pivoting mast with a gigantic 1200 square meter sail panel that can fold like a gigantic accordion.

When on vacation, most people switch off their conscience

When it comes to sustainability, German cruise vacationers are contradicting themselves. The vast majority, 65 percent, appreciate it very much when a shipping company strives for sustainability, according to a Green Travel study by the Fraunhofer Institute.

At the same time, a good quarter of them do not want to be constantly reminded everywhere on board how to save waste, reduce or offset travel-related greenhouse gas emissions. This is perceived as a kind of personal limitation, as a raised index finger like a high school teacher.

Well-intentioned signs at the buffets, for example, advising not to shovel too much onto your plates, are perceived as overbearing and obtrusive (e.g. Costa with the note “Don’t Waste Taste” to promote responsible consumption ). Not everyone likes the more economical aerator on the taps (Hapag-Lloyd) or fewer towels and less frequent bed linen changes (Mein Schiff). Even the new large dispenser of Nutella at the buffet instead of the prepackaged mini portions on the new “Aida Cosma” caused discussions among the guests.

Tourism expert Professor Ulrich Reinhardt from the Foundation for Future Questions explains their behavior as follows: “The holiday as the highlight of the year should essentially fulfill two wishes: relaxation and a contrast to everyday life. In order to achieve this, the vast majority turn off their conscience.”

The travel analysis by the research association Holidays and Travel shows this discrepancy between desire and reality very clearly: For the majority of tourists, sustainability on vacation is a major topic (57 percent), but it only plays a subordinate role in their own booking behavior (four percent). Most people are only willing to make compromises if their holiday happiness doesn’t suffer as a result.

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The costs are also an important factor: 73 percent of vacationers would be willing to book a sustainable cruise in the future for environmental reasons, but only at the same price. And then without restrictions: even a bedtime treat is a bitter struggle.

A storm of indignation broke out among the passengers when they recently found a sign on the “Mein Schiff 4” in their cabins instead of packaged chocolate coins on the pillow, a tradition that has become dear to them. With the note: “Dear guests, environmental protection is important to us, so we always strive to avoid wasting resources…” Many guests criticized the end of bedtime treats as a hidden economy measure. By the way: The chocolate coins are now available again at the reception if you pick them up yourself.

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