NABU survey: Cruise companies are doing too little to protect the environment

Cruise shipping companies are still doing far too little to protect the environment, health and the climate, a new cruise ranking of Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), a German non-governmental organization dedicated to conservation, shows.

Illustration. Courtesy of NABU

NABU evaluated the implemented measures and goals of the cruise operators on the way to clean, climate-neutral cruises.

The 2022 ranking is based on the NABU roadmap that calls for climate-neutral cruise operations by 2040. A total of nineteen shipping companies were surveyed and they could have achieved a maximum of seventeen points.

However, the first-placed cruise ferry company and mail boat operator Hurtigruten Norway only achieved half of the possible points, with all other companies lined up behind it.

Among the top five are the three German companies AIDA, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and TUI Cruises, which can be considered pioneers, especially for measures on large and very large ships.

So far tentative projects toward more climate friendliness must be implemented on a larger scale in the near future, according to NABU. The results also show that many companies mainly utter ‘nice words and announcements’ and so far only little has been concretely implemented to improve the situation, NABU said.

“On the tenth anniversary of the NABU cruise ranking, the results show once again that environmental and climate protection are still not given the necessary priority. Toxic but cheap heavy fuel oil remains the fuel of choice for most of the fleet. Only a few truly future-oriented projects are in the planning and implementation phase. But natural and climate crises are acute,” Leif Miller, NABU Federal Managing Director, commented.

“Only those who are getting out of heavy fuel oil today and making zero emissions the standard for all new ships can make it credible that the announcements for a climate-neutral future are seriously meant.”

The majority of companies have a climate strategy and are committed to the Paris climate goals. The first shipping companies are using modern technologies such as batteries and fuel cells, which can guarantee climate-neutral operation in the future. So far, however, only as small additions to the combustion engine.

TUI Cruises has commissioned a ship that is to be operated with carbon-neutral methanol. However, fossil propulsion systems remain the standard. Heavy fuel oil remains the first choice and the order books are almost exclusively made up of LNG ships.

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Although Hurtigruten, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Ponant score with heavy oil phase-out and shore power, the expedition ships do not have a good environmental balance per person. This is because there are often far fewer passengers on board.

“The fact that Hurtigruten is the winner shows that cruises on fixed routes along the coasts make the necessary climate and environmental measures more predictable and therefore easier to implement. But it also shows that strict regulation helps. Norway has had strict nitrogen oxide regulations since 2007. In addition, certain fjords may only be navigated with zero-emission ships in the future,” Sönke Diesener, NABU cruise expert, said.

“For us, this means that we need stricter laws across the board in order to force a comparable development in the entire industry. These include a general ban on heavy fuel oil, an obligation to use shore power and an e-fuels quota, as well as stricter efficiency requirements and the large-scale designation of zero and low-emission areas at sea.”

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Zero emissions at berth can already be achieved today if a ship is connected to shore power and can thus switch off the engines in port. So far, however, very few have used this option.

“Shore power plants have been built for millions of taxpayers’ money – in Hamburg already in 2016! But hardly any of the 50 or so luxury liners calling at Hamburg accept it. The cruise industry must be obliged to finally buy the green shore power provided to them. The city and the cruise industry are required to keep their promises to residents and to effectively minimize pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions. It must apply: no shore power, no access!” Malte Siegert, Chairman of NABU Hamburg, stressed.

A Civey survey commissioned by NABU showed that over 76 percent of people in Germany want cruise companies to stop using heavy fuel oil. In order to underline this demand, the environmental association is now calling for a letter of protest to be sent to the heads of AIDA, TUI, Costa, MSC, Carnival and Royal Caribbean via the campaign website, requesting them to stop using stop using the toxic fuel immediately. More than 12,000 people have already taken part. The campaign runs until December.