Maikel Arts, General Manager, Market Innovation, Wärtsilä Marine Power, explains how the cruise travel segment is adapting to implement sustainable solutions while maintaining economic viability.
What are some solutions to make the cruise segment more environment friendly?
One example is liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel. It provides lower emissions, a reduction of greenhouse gases, and cleaner air. Wärtsilä was early in promoting this technology. We started developing and promoting LNG as a marine fuel 20 years ago. It has taken many years to convince ship owners and companies working in the marine fuel infrastructure to make sure that the fuel is made available. At first, only a couple of special ships adopted it, but in the last 10-15 years, it has gained momentum. Now you can see that the cruise industry has really embraced LNG, especially in the bigger cruise ships. It is a step in the right direction, but many more steps are needed.
Why is the cruise segment taking action to increase sustainability now?
Cruise vacations are becoming more accessible to a wider audience as the vessels have become more sophisticated and capable of entertaining all kinds of passengers.
At the same time, environmental awareness is increasing – not just in the marine sector but in all businesses. In the cruise industry, there are groups that are very vocal with regards to sustainability and the environmental impact of cruising on their community or to the environment in general. For the cruise industry, being environmentally friendly and addressing concerns of the consumer market is necessary to stay in operation.
What are some other steps ship owners can take to meet sustainability goals?
We are very active in developing hybrid technologies - for example, a battery source with an LNG engine.
We are also offering waste treatment solutions and introducing new technology that goes above and beyond today’s requirements in terms of minimising waste and substances in discharged water. A cruise ship might have 8,000 or 9,000 people on board including crew, which creates a lot of black water and solid waste that has to be treated on board before it can be stored and offloaded at facilities in ports or safely discharged.
What are the biggest challenges facing sustainability in the cruise industry?
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and by 2050. One of [the biggest challenges] is the 2050 goal. The target has been decided, but nobody really knows what the technology of choice will be in order to reach it.
There are a number of fuel options that the cruise lines have to help meet that target, such as LNG, bioLNG, ammonia, methanol, and hydrogen. The variety is very large and that makes it difficult for cruise lines to make strategic choices. A lot of future development will depend on if there will be a technological breakthrough around producing these fuels, how the prices of the fuel sources develop, and the reach of the infrastructure to support distribution of these fuels. At the same time, the industry is growing year on year. Cruise lines need to build ships today that will satisfy the needs of tomorrow.
How can ship owners increase sustainability while remaining financially viable?
The majority of these new technologies require higher investments from cruise clients, but not all. For example, there are a lot of digital technologies that can be adopted. By using data and the right algorithms, we are able to create actionable insight which allows cruise lines to optimize processes and systems onboard. There’s a solid payback on this type of investment.
In terms of the fuel options cruise lines can choose from to meet the environmental restrictions in place today as well as the ones in the future, they can choose to go with liquid fuels or with LNG. You see many cruise lines selecting LNG, which requires investment in fuel tanks and engines, but it enables the propulsion system to be adapted when future fuels are developed, and the LNG, is much cheaper - especially compared to marine gasoline. If you have the ability to make the investment, there is also a clear payback calculation - especially for the big cruise ships that consume substantial amounts of fuel. The environmental performance also is much better than with liquid fuels.
[Wärtsilä’s] strategy is that LNG is the best solution available today, and it can be mixed with biofuels when they become available.
What do you think the main future fuels of the cruise industry will be?
Wärtsilä’s strategic pathway says that if you invest now in a ship that will operate for 35 to 40 years, you need to have fuel flexibility. Nobody knows what the dominant fuel source will be, or if it will be a mix of fuel sources depending on the location your ship is sailing. Selecting dual-fuel engines with LNG tanks onboard is clearly the strategic choice with the lowest amount of risk. This option allows cruise operators to run on gas fuels - including LNG, bioLNG, and synthetic LNGs - and you can also run on liquid fuels with the flexibility to adapt to future fuels when they are available.