2020 cruise industry trends

Why sustainability is set to play a major role

The cruise ship sector continues to boom, with around 32 million passengers expected to opt for a maritime vacation in 2020—a 2 million increase compared to 2019. As climate change dominates media coverage, companies are upping their efforts to meet environmental goals by rapidly adopting clean technologies. What can we expect in 2020?

For the last two years, Engineering At Sea has discussed technology and trends in the cruise sector. For the third year in a row, the industry continues to perform well. 25 new cruise ships will begin service in 2020. In this year’s review, the environment takes center stage, with manufacturers and operators making this a key consideration for new and existing vessels and services.

Environmental responsibility high on the agenda

Ships powered by clean fuel are set to make waves in 2020. Leading cruise holiday company Carnival Corporation announced it would launch four new vessels in 2020—two of which can be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), and this trend shows no sign of slowing down. It’s no surprise that Carnival expects to hit the IMO’s 2030 greenhouse gas target for newbuilds.

Electric cruise ships also present an opportunity for reducing cruising’s environmental impact. Norwegian cruise ship operator Hurtigruten designed and tested hybrid vessels propelled by a combination of batteries, LNG, and biogas (LGB). This venture was successful, and the company is rebuilding existing ships to incorporate these green technologies. Hurtigruten’s plans fit perfectly with Norway’s environmental vision, as its parliament decreed that all UNESCO-protected fjords must be free from cruise and ferry emissions by 2026.

Cruise trends in the spotlight

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association released a report on trends it believes will influence 2020. Key topics include:

– Environmental sustainability
– Innovation with regards to green technology like LNG and shore-side power
– Destination stewardship
– Going plastic free
– Lone cruisers
– Cruise and stay, where passengers spend a few extra days at destinations
– Younger generations of tourists
– Micro travel

However, LNG may not be a long-term solution for reducing emissions in the cruise sector. While LNG ships could reduce environmental impact compared to conventional fuel-powered ships, the technology still uses a fossil fuel—natural gas.

Speaking at a roundtable sponsored by ABB, Anshul Tuteja, Associate Vice President at Royal Caribbean Cruises, explained, “I don’t think there is anyone here that thinks LNG is here to stay forever. It is still a fossil fuel and there are still challenges with methane slip and carbon.” Fuel cells, on the other hand, could be used to produce electricity and water and help the cruise industry move towards its target of a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide. Royal Caribbean Cruises have three Icon class ships equipped with fuel cells on order, with delivery expected between 2022 and 2025. LNG may provide a stepping stone, but fuel cells could offer a more viable, long-term option.

The cruise sector is on the right path

Reducing environmental impact via innovative, clean technology will define the 2020s in the cruise industry. Companies are cleaning up their act by adopting recycling for waste and minimizing plastic use. For example, Carnival will considerably reduce purchasing and using non-essential single-use plastics by the end of 2021. Shore-to-ship power is also becoming more popular, as cruise liners try to reduce their pollution footprint when in port. Currently, 16 ports visited by CLIA Cruise Lines support shoe-side power, and the company plans to retrofit its existing fleet to make it compatible with this technology.

Ballast water treatment never far from the discussion

IMO ballast water regulations play a key role in ensuring cruise ships don’t harm the environment. All ships—cruise liners included—must use a compliant ballast water management system (BWMS) by 2024 or face penalties. Operators should already be planning or implementing their new strategy. We can expect more companies to make the shift in 2020.

The cruise ship industry is making huge strides to reach its sustainability goals. If progress continues at this rate, with contributions from OEMs and operators, it won’t be long before the cruise sector can claim to be a truly green Industry.

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