Marine Momentum

Cruise ships are still the hottest thing in the industry - But can environmental concerns turn the tide?

article picture: Marine Momentum

As order books keep filling up with cruise ships, there seems to be mostly smooth sailing ahead for both shipyards and cruise lines. However, as the cruise business is subject to the whims of the consumer, winds can also change quite quickly. One dark cloud on the horizon is Climate Change: if cruise-going would become unfavorably viewed in the eyes of certain opinion-leaders in the USA, for example, this could impact the entire industry considerably.

Obviously, the global cruise lines industry is moving to counter this. For instance, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has been very vocal in highlighting the new green attitudes of the sector. CLIA Chair Adam Goldstein has commented that the cruise lines need to play a “leadership role” in sustainable tourism.

For example, CLIA cruise lines are already leading the shipping sector in making a first-ever industry-wide emissions commitment at the end of 2018, to advance sustainability on the seas and to reduce the rate of carbon emissions across the industry fleet by 40 % by 2030.

CLIA cruise lines are also taking a role in stewardship for the cruise sector’s sustainability work, such as onboard wastewater and sulphur treatment plants, as well as pioneering hull coatings, hull design and air lubrication systems. Plus, due to advanced waste management and recycling systems, there is zero waste-tolandfill from some of the biggest cruise ships in the world.

25 LNG cruisers by 2030?
Furthermore, up to 25 liquid natural gas (LNG) powered ships are scheduled to be in operation by 2030. Over 70 % of the cruise fleet – 152 ships – are already “dual fuel” ships, meaning that they are able to use alternative fuels such as methanol and biodiesel as well as traditional fossil fuels.

In addition, ships representing over 92 % of the total berth capacity use lowfriction hull coatings to reduce emissions by increasing efficiency and reducing fuel consumption. According to CLIA stats, 13 ships have air lubrication systems installed that reduce friction between a ship’s hull and seawater.

AS CLIA listed Cruise Trends for 2019, it acknowledged that travelers want to see the world in a conscious, mindful way. According to the trend report, the cruise industry “is more conscientious than ever,” working diligently to minimise environmental footprints.

Green wave emerging
Tapio Karvonen, Senior Researcher, University of Turku, Centre for Maritime Studies, believes that the future of the cruise industry is largely tied to the question of perception: will cruises be viewed as “green enough” to convince the eco-conscious consumer planning his/her holiday? – After all, taking a big, big boat on a spin at sea is certainly not an emissions-free activity, but then again, neither is flying to an exotic destination.

“Cruise lines want environmentallyminded ships where energy consumption is brought down. It’s up to the shipyards to deliver,” Karvonen notes.

So far, the business shows no signs of waning down. According to CLIA’s data, cruising continues at a paced growth around the world with an almost 7 % increase from 2017 to 2018, totaling 28.5 million passengers. Research also shows North American travelers continue to embrace cruising with an annual passenger increase of 9 % (14.2 million passengers) in 2018. Europe and Asia Pacific are following suite, with 7.17 and 5.7 million passengers, respectively.

While the cruise sector represents 2 % of the overall global travel industry, this segment is on pace with international tourism worldwide. According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals grew 6 % in 2018 (totaling 1.4 billion) while cruise travel grew at almost 7 % during the same timing. In addition, more than eight out of ten CLIA-certified travel agents stated that they are expecting an increase in sales in 2019 over last year.

Look beyond the horizon
Tapio Karvonen points out that shipyards have filled out their order books during the present positive stretch. “Meyer Turku has ship orders until 2024 and the Italian Fincantieri, another maker of luxury cruise ships, until 2027,” Karvonen says, adding that around 100 cruise ships have been ordered from shipyards, globally speaking.

“The cruise market is an interesting one, because we don’t how much more it can grow. We do know that there is more variety now with cruises taking place in Caribbean, Europe and Asia,” he says.

According to Karvonen, innovationdriven shipmakers such as Meyer Turku will continue to thrive, because the cruise-goer is always looking for the next big thing – and the Turku shipyard can deliver with the best of them.

“Every cruise ship needs that ‘wow’ element. More and more, the most important destination on the whole cruise is the ship itself.”

Going digital
But what kind of new innovations could be in the cards for the cruise ships? According to CLIA, the industry needs to recognise that travelers use tech in daily lives and are expecting smart tech when vacationing as well. As a response, cruise lines have adopted technology for cruise travelers – including keychains, necklaces, bracelets, apps and more – in order to provide a highly personalised travel experience while on and off the ship.

CLIA Trends 2019 report also points out to a “changing of the guard”, of sorts: the up-coming Generation Z is set to become the largest consumer generation by the year 2020 – outpacing even Millennials. This generation (much like the one before) prefers experiences over material items and is keen to travel. The appeal of multiple destinations and unique experiences, such as music festivals at sea, is likely to attract this new category of cruisers.

“The fascination with extraordinary experiences onboard is not going anywhere – in fact, it’s getting stronger,” says Karvonen.

By: Sami Anteroinen

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