Cruise Europe conference calls for industry collaboration to protect the environment

A record 180 attended the Cruise Europe conference (CEC) held in Zeebrugge from March 4 to 7. These included members of the association, cruiseline executives, the media and representatives from associations such as European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Topics under discussion ranged from tendering and local produce to crew being the best ambassadors for a destination. The main focus, however, was on sustainability, whether that be in the number of passengers calling on a single day, air emissions or washwater from scrubbers.

At a time when ports in Norway, Amsterdam and Dublin are facing reduced calls due to local restrictions, it is even more imperative that the industry comes together to address issues and seek realistic solutions that protect the environment, but also businesses.

Whether it be the sudden implementation of reduced emissions and discharges in the Norwegian fjords, Amsterdam’s implementation of an $8 passenger tax or Dublin restricting call days, everyone in the cruise business has a vested interest in educating the wider public beyond uninformed perception.

The need to tell the cruiseline story has never been more crucial. Politicians and local lobby groups are causing the industry headaches. For some time now there has been a plea for the lines and CLIA to provide information on the huge progress that has been made in installing environmentally-friendly technology on board the ships. That need to educate has just become even more vital.

No-one is in any doubt about the efficacy of protecting the very environment that is the cruise industry’s lifeblood, however CE chairman Michael McCarthy began by saying: “In a lot of ports and regions assumptions are being made without scientific facts, and restrictions being implemented on the cruiselines without proper consultation to back up these restrictions. There is no doubt that cruising is paying a price for its visibility. We need dialogue, answers and common sense as well.

“For three years the call has gone out quite clearly that we are not being given the information by the cruiselines and CLIA in order to respond to [local and regional] issues. It is getting better but it is very, very far from where we should be. It is good to see CLIA and ESPO representatives here for the first time because we need that cooperation going forward.”

He went on to quote a Rule from the International Collision Regulations 1996 (Rule 7c): “Assumptions shall not be made on the basis of scanty information”. At a time when politicians are doing just that, providing the facts has never been more important.

He made a plea: “Cruiselines have to share information with us. There is a basket of solutions which, when taken together, can solve the sustainability issues.”

Captain Hernan Zini, vp worldwide port operations Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, commented: “We have an opportunity to creatively use our ships to tell the story and we have a responsibility to do this. We need to make time to educate people.”

Many other cruiseline executives concurred, offering to host stakeholders onboard during port calls in an effort to educate. The time for action not talk has now arrived.

While Michele Francioni, svp cost optimisation & process improvement MSC Cruises, explained: “The biggest challenge overall is uncertainty [vis regulations]. Anything that is not recognised as a single international regulation is a headache.”

Given that Manus Walsh, president Brenock Technology which has implemented a web-based global rules portal, has identified 3,327 regulations worldwide, it is easy to see the scale of the problem.

Later in the day Chris Millman, vp corporate marine technology Carnival Corp & plc, presented findings from a two-year, third-party scientific study conducted into scrubbers/advanced air quality systems/exhaust gas cleaning systems showing that they are a safe and well within compliance of the IMO’s washwater guidelines vis a vis the 2020 sulphur cap.

Millman also drew attention to a June 2018 report by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism on the ‘Impact of EGCS on the Marine Environment’ which points to evidence supporting scrubbers as a safe and effective option for IMO 2020 compliance.

(Cruise Europe)