Andrea Ashfield: Will we ever see a carbon neutral cruise industry?

Dr Hermann Klein: The cruise industry has conducted a number of serious initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of cruise ships. Whether we will see a carbon neutral vessel in the near future is a question of strict environmental regulations, technological innovations and customers being ready to pay for the extra benefits of spending their vacation on a ‘green’ cruise ship.

AA: Why is the German shipbuilding industry number one in Europe for green vessels?

HK: German shipbuilding has a long tradition of technological innovation. The industry continues to focus on high-value, well-equipped, special-purpose vessels. Environmentally friendly ships with low energy consumption help stabilise the market share of Germany’s maritime industry. Shipyards have already successfully diversified and have largely switched their product range to high-tech vessels.

AA: How are you addressing new environmental compliance issues for 2011, following on from the recent Global Maritime Environmental Congress (GMEC)?

HK: The GMEC gave high-profile representatives of the maritime industry the opportunity to discuss environmental technology issues. Many cruise operators have set a target to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2015 or later. Since cruise lines are not only setting environmental standards, but reporting on them at regular intervals, the public has the option to compare individual achievement and performance.

“The cruise industry has conducted a number of serious initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of cruise ships.”

AA: What are the biggest challenges for the cruise industry?

HK: The carbon footprint of ships needs to be reduced. Atmospheric emissions, including sulphur and nitrous oxides, along with the particulates that are found in exhaust gases, are already the subject of mandatory requirements. The switch to better fuel is the biggest challenge in terms of improving the environmental balance of shipping. Progress has been made over the past decade, and the ongoing lowering of emission limits is a forceful sign that the industry will change.

AA: How far has the industry come in the past five years in terms of being environmentally responsible?

HK: The cruise industry has recognised the need for technological innovation and for investment in environmental technology onboard each and every ship. Cruise vacations have become very popular, and the industry is very concerned about its green image. There are many initiatives implemented by cruise lines to improve their environmental credentials and cut emissions. One example is the move towards detailed monitoring and controlling of power consumption onboard cruise ships. This has wide-ranging implications for costs and environmental responsibility. Besides optimising power generation, detailed monitoring and management of energy systems will have further advantages, such as reducing fuel costs and CO2, NOx and SOx emissions, lowering power losses, cutting wear of pumps and piping, less noise and the centralisation of cabling and piping.

AA: What projects are you working on at the moment?

HK: Germanischer Lloyd (GL) is actively involved in research projects. A number of new technologies are being prototyped, such as air lubrication, liquefied natural gas (LNG) as ship fuel, fuel cell systems, exhaust gas cleaning systems, heat recovery systems and wind power assistance systems. LNG as ship fuel promises to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 20%, and many projects are being set up, in particular for short sea vessels, to operate in emission control areas (ECAs) after 1 January 2015. The technology already seems mature, but procedures and infrastructure are still missing.

GL is convinced liquid gas will become the marine fuel of the future. There are no technological barriers to developing modern tonnage powered by gas. Furthermore, it is likely gas could soon fuel larger vessels too. Factors such as safety, technical issues, the implication of the loss of cargo space, the reliable availability of LNG and safe bunkering procedures are all important issues that inform GL’s research agenda.

“The switch to better fuel is the biggest challenge in terms of improving the environmental balance of shipping.”

Maritime fuel cell systems are being explored in Europe, and will replace diesel generators in the long run. Fuel cell manufacturers have to deliver a higher efficiency than the generator set. A wider application is expected after 2020.

AA: Can you describe the relationship GL has with cruise operators?

HK: GL has very close and constructive relations with a number of cruise line operators. Currently, the company is involved in the classification process of the latest new building of AIDA Cruises and Europa II. The relationship between GL and its clients could best be defined as a lifetime cooperation, scanning from design to building and from operation to scrapping.

AA: Is the cruise industry able to keep abreast of all of the new environmental legislation?

HK: There is no doubt that the cruise industry is proactive in fulfilling and even over-fulfilling regulations to promote cleaner shipping. It has a good track record as far as the environment is concerned. Furthermore, it makes good business sense to introduce eco-friendly ships. With the pressure on to reduce greenhouse gases, cruise ship design will be adopted by the industry’s suppliers, designers and naval architects in order to implement eco-friendly solutions that embrace every aspect of design and equipment fit. The cruise industry is involved in all discussions on improving environmental issues, and is actively participating at several levels of the International Maritime Organisation and with international and national trade associations, including the Cruise Lines International Association and the European Cruise Council.

AA: Is the technology available to make the cruise industry cleaner than it is? Or is it that the cruise industry does not want to pay for it?

HK: By using, for example, distillate fuel, the cruise industry can contribute right away to a much better environmental balance sheet. It seems less a question of technology but of fuel quality and the commercial implications. Given the 2015 deadline for the sulphur content of fuel in ECAs to be reduced to a maximum of 0.1%, the cruise industry will have some time to prepare for the change. Client expectations and their willingness to pay a higher price for a cleaner voyage would help accelerate the necessary changes.

AA: Should cruise lines work with other industries, such as shipping and naval forces, to develop better environmental practices?

HK: The protection of the world’s oceans from pollution is an environmental issue of immense international concern. The cruise industry is already pushing the development, and maintains close cooperation with flag states, and other regulatory bodies.

AA: Are some environmental issues taking precedent over others?

HK: Combating all aspects of emission at the same time is a complex challenge, but cruise ships face tough waste disposal limits to preserve maritime habitats and coastal waters. Various national legislations restrict, for example, the discharge of any waste water, treated or otherwise, within up to 200 nautical miles offshore, and cruise lines have substantially improved their waste disposal practices in recent years.

Ports are also required to provide port waste management plans and establish an efficient ship waste handling system designed to ensure proper waste management services in compliance with national and international law. The development and implementation of waste management plans in ports and other coastal establishments presents the most effective means of minimising and avoiding the potential consequences of operational and illegal discharges of oil and garbage from ships into the marine environment. Can technological advances and innovation at sea bring wider benefits to society on land?

“There are no technological barriers to developing modern tonnage powered by gas.”

Innovations and technological advances will continue to improve the environmental balance sheet of shipping. Given the growth of the industry in recent years, new designs and equipment will help to reduce the carbon footprint. Shipping is at a critical crossroads, where a proactive approach to reducing emissions will be rewarded with a reputation as a leading innovator and act as a benchmark for success among other transport sectors. This will increase the tangible value of the industry and those organisations within it that observe the benefits of corporate and social governance and responsibility.

The cruise industry will rely on more and more clients who would like to spend their vacation in a clean and emission-minimised environment.

AA: What clean technologies do you see cruise ships using in the future?

HK: Apart from switching to better fuel qualities or using alternative fuels such as gas, wind can contribute to cutting the fuel bill, as well as lowering emissions. The auxiliary SkySails kite system is one option that can substantially assist the voyage, although much depends on the route and conditions. The alternative use of wind technology developed by Germany’s SkySails can eventually be scaled up for use on larger ships, including tankers or even cruise vessels, to cut operating costs and reduce emission footprints.

Alternative fuels might have a more predictable future than wind. LNG has the potential to become the dominant fuel source for all merchant ships, as environmental pressures force owners to use cleaner burning fuel. LNG is already cheaper than HFO, and there is already a trend within new merchant ships to install dual-fuel engines to be more flexible to comply with strict emission limits. LNG cuts carbon emissions from shipping by about 25%, sulphur oxide by almost 100% and nitrogen oxide by 85%. Apart from new builds designed to run on LNG,  it is also possible to retrofit existing vessels to use the fuel.

AA: What is the impact of the German government’s shipping and marine incentive?

HK: The Framework Programme Shipping and Marine Technology for the 21st Century promoted projects in ship technology which enhance performance, safety and environmental protection. The research programme has proved successful in developing new ship types and improving ship designs, further developing ship hydrodynamics, improving ship safety, enhancing reliability in terms of ship operation, reducing noise pollution and vibration, and caring for the environment. Other areas of focus are the productivity of shipyards, shifting transport to near-shore waters and inland waterways, offshore technology and polar technology.

AA: Do we need to dovetail maritime policy making with the EU mainstream policy process, so that it makes the right contribution to the Europe 2020 strategy?

HK: The thriving maritime sector is a key source for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe. Unlocking the economic potential of the maritime industry is key to achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy. This can only be realised by making sufficient EU funding available for maritime research and development. The ‘Ocean of Tomorrow’ call is a very good example of how EU funding can help to maintain a competitive European maritime industry and thereby serve the EU’s overall strategy of economic, social and environmental renewal.