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INTERVIEW: Andy Harmer on why it’s now easier being green

The Clia UK boss tells Sam Ballard how the organisation is steering cruise lines in the right direction when it comes to environmental protection

There is arguably no bigger challenge to the cruise sector right now than sustainability. Whether it’s single-use plastics, fuel type or any other number of topics – cruise, as with many other sectors of the travel industry, is under the microscope.

However, the industry is doing a lot of work in this space. From the proposed $5 billion joint fund for research and development, to the International Maritime Organization’s ruling that fuel types can only have a maximum sulphur content of 0.5 per cent (down from 3.5 per cent). So, with that level of investment and legislation being delivered, it’s crucial that the messaging is there, too. This is where the likes of Cia comes in. The organisation is the conduit between cruise line and trade and so is a good first port of call when it comes to finding out more about the industry’s sustainability initiatives. We sat down with Andy Harmer, the organisation’s UK boss, to find out more.

Are cruise lines acting quickly enough to cut out single-use plastic? 

Sustainability is integral to how the cruise industry operates, and cruise lines are constantly looking at ways to protect the environment.  Cutting single-use plastic is one such example. Many cruise lines have already committed to significantly reducing or completely eliminating single-use plastic onboard, in ways such as using refillable toiletries in cabins, banishing plastic straws and giving guests plastic-free water bottles. 


How does cruise change the negative image surrounding its environmental impact?

While cruise lines only represent less than 1 per cent of the global shipping fleet, the cruise industry is at the vanguard of measures being taken to improve the environmental impact of shipping.  

CLIA’s areas of focus for environmental improvements include: improving fuel standards to reduce emissions, investing in new technologies and designs to transform the global fleet’s efficiency and performance, and collaborating with leading national and international organisations to advance sustainability efforts. 

In many of these areas, great work has already been achieved. CLIA cruise lines have invested more than £16 billion in the development of new energy-efficient technologies and cleaner fuels, such as the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for a ship’s propulsion which burns cleaner than any other fossil fuel.  Furthermore, in 2018, CLIA cruise lines made the first-ever industry-wide emissions commitment, pledging to reduce the rate of carbon emissions across the fleet by 40 per cent by 2030. 


In what ways can cruise lines help combat over tourism in certain destinations? 

Responsible tourism means respecting the destinations we visit.  While cruising represents a fraction of the tourism market, we are playing our part and CLIA partners with local governments and communities to agree solutions appropriate to local circumstances.

Dubrovnik offers a model approach – in 2019 CLIA signed Memorandum of Understanding with Dubrovnik including: collaborating on 2020 berthing policy to manage visitor flow, exploring visitor routes outside the Old Town, and supporting the Mayor’s ‘Respect the City’ programme.The Dubrovnik partnership is testament to cruise industry’s commitment to collaborate with communities and preserve the culture and heritage of destinations we visit

What are the new IMO rules and how is CLIA/CLIA cruise lines preparing for them?

As of 1 January 2020, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has stated that ships must use fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5 per cent, compared with the previous 3.5 per cent. This rule affects the whole maritime industry. This will be made possible by innovative technologies in ship design and propulsion, including advances like LNG and initiatives like exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers). 

How will the $5 billion sustainability fund be used?

At the end of 2019, several members of the global maritime shipping industry, including CLIA, submitted a proposal to the IMO to voluntarily establish the world’s first industry-led, collaborativeresearch and development programme. The proposal includes core funding from shipping companies across the globe of about $5 billion over a 10-year period. This programme, if accepted by the IMO, would pave the way for decarbonisation of shipping, including cruise ships, by accelerating the development of commercially viable zero carbon-emission ships by the early 2030s. 

What can the industry do to make more ports embrace shore side power? 

Shore-side power allows a ship to have shore-side electrical power at berth, meaning its main and auxiliary engines can shut down, reducing overall emissions whilst in port. Currently 30 per cent of the global fleet capacity are fitted to operate on shore-side electricity (up 10 per cent from 2018) and 88 per cent of new ships to be fitted with such systems. There are 16 ports worldwide where cruise ships can operate on shore-side electricity, and construction of a new shore power plant that will power three ships simultaneously is underway in Bergen.   

Do you think we could ever see a carbon neutral ocean-going cruise ship?

There are constant advancements in technologies which contribute towards the cruise industry achieving its goal to reduce the rate of carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2030.  Five to ten years ago, technologies such as scrubbers, shore-side power capabilities and LNG as fuel for cruise ships did not exist. Ultimately, the cruise industry is committed to supporting work aimed at achieving the IMO’s target of zero emissions across the maritime industry.  

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