Flick through any cruise brochure and you will see some of the world’s most stunning and pristine locations. From the icy splendour of the Alaskan wilderness to the tropical Caribbean sun. From rugged Norwegian nature to historical Venetian culture. The common denominator of all these destinations is the ambition of cruise operators to give their passengers an unforgettable holiday experience in the world’s most remarkable places.
It is the sheer beauty of these itineraries that makes the subject of environmental sustainability in the cruise industry so pressing. Furthermore, says Andrea Trevisan, SVP sales and marketing Damen Cruise, this issue is made even more compelling in two other ways. “Firstly, the cruise industry is a rapidly growing market; it has been for the last 30 years. But nowadays more than ever – with over 100 cruise ships on order, ranging from XXL vessels to small boutique and expedition cruise ships – the global emissions footprint of the cruise industry is increasing.”
The second reason, he continues, concerns power requirements, and the resulting emissions thereof. This is of particular relevance when navigating in environmentally sensitive areas or within ports located close to cities. For example, even a medium-sized cruise ship can easily draw up to four to six megawatts of power when in port. “Therefore, the issue of sustainability of cruise ships is of crucial importance for the growth of the cruise industry. A cruise ship, regardless of its dimensions, entering a city or sailing through pristine polar waters must not disturb the urban population or local environment in any way. And, in fact, the long-term ambition of the industry is to have emissions free cruise ships.”
Some governments are bringing in their own hefty regulations to tackle the issue, says Robin Brouwer, Damen Cruise VP Design and Proposal. “For example, Norway is heading for zero emissions in a couple of years from now – cruise ships will only be allowed into the protected areas of the fjords if they have zero emissions.” While environmental laws are getting tighter, the subject goes further than legislation, says Robin.
"Sustainability is also starting to become a selling point for vessel owners. Passengers want to sail on cleaner ships."
The stricter environmental regulations are pushing the cruise industry to find alternative fuels. Of the various options available, LNG is playing a dominant role; approximately 30% of newbuilds are being built with LNG propulsion systems. “This is not a solution for the long term, however. Cruise ships often operate in remote areas where the LNG supply chain is lacking, but also LNG is not emissions free,” says Andrea. So what is Damen’s solution to the subject of improving sustainability in cruise ships?
"We can couple our vast amount of knowledge building complex vessels with a large research and development team to create solutions to make the cruise industry more sustainable."
Numerous solutions relating to sustainability already exist; in fact, a lot of progress has been made in the last decade as cruise ships have become around 30% more energy efficient. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel – our job is the smart integration of sustainable technologies. This is our core business.” Robin is talking about currently available solutions such as waste heat recovery, shore connections, LED lighting and the use of batteries, all of which contribute to make a cruise ship cleaner and greener. “Hydrodynamics – hull form optimisation – is also something that we are very good at, and we believe that the Damen Air Cavity system (DACS), reducing fuel consumption, will also be very relevant for the cruise industry. Looking ahead, together with industry partners, we are investing in the possible application of high-power fuel cells and even 100% hydrogen-based operations.”
In addition to Damen’s extensive network of suppliers, Danish ship design company KNUD E. HANSEN (part of the Damen Shipyards Group since 2012) will also provide valuable input into Damen’s cruise ambitions. KNUD E. HANSEN has a lot of knowledge with HVAC systems, Robin points out.
"This is very interesting because HVAC systems are a major energy consumer that can be made more efficient through advanced digital development and automation."
In for the long-term
An often overlooked aspect of sustainability throughout the whole maritime sector is the subject of prolonging operational lifetime. After all, keeping a vessel active while simultaneously updating its green credentials is surely more sustainable than sending it to the breaker’s yard for scrap? Indeed, Andrea confirms, the lifespan of cruise vessels is typically very long. “Up to 35 to 40 years, in fact. This starts with the financing process during the contractual/design stage and continues with engineering and construction. And then, during the operational lifetime, an owner will need refit, refurbishing work and major conversions. And it is our role at Damen to support the vessel’s entire sustainable and productive lifecycle. We are the long-term partner.”
Damen Air Cavity system (DACS)
KNUD E. HANSEN