MSC SETS SAIL FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN THE CRUISE INDUSTRY
MSC Euribia’s world-first net zero emissions cruise could indicate a paradigm shift for the cruise industry
Over the years, cruise ships have become bigger and bigger – massive floating hotels taking thousands upon thousands of tourists out into our environmentally sensitive oceans whilst spewing more and more carbon dioxide, chemical and plastic waste into the environment.
In much the same way as airlines, these vehicles of leisure travel which take nature lovers out to view the many marvels of the natural world have been criticised for being anything but environmentally friendly themselves – something of a no-win situation when it comes to potentially growing eco-tourism globally.
An article in Time magazine in June this year indicated that a medium-sized cruise ship spewed greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 12,000 cars into the air – and that was before it noted that the cruise industry had also come under considerable pressure for releasing tons of toxic waste into the ocean – all in the name of chasing the so-called tourism buck.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has predicted that the industry is one of the fastest growing tourism divisions and likely to exceed its pre-Covid record of passenger numbers and revenues by next year. It is expected to grow to be 2% above pre-pandemic levels by 2026
A medium sized ship carries between 1 000 and 2 500 passengers – rather small when compared with the mega cruisers that are exiting shipyards today.
For example, the Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas, which is expected to be the largest cruise ship to sail, is due for its maiden voyage in January 2024. Not only will it measure a mammoth 365 meters long and weigh in at 250,800 tonnes but carry around 5 610 passengers and 2 350 crew. Even bigger vessels are also on the way.
However, it seems that pressure to get the cruise industry to clean up its act has changed the focus somewhat. Now, instead of building bigger and bigger floating hotels, the race might just be on to create the most environmentally friendly ship.
The cruise industry has set itself a sustainability target of achieving net-zero carbon cruising by 2050 with cruise lines competing to design ships that use sustainable energy including solar and wind or even bio-LNG, a fuel derived from renewable resources such as organic waste rather than from traditional fossil resources. Apparently, the use of BioLNG makes it possible to reduce CO2 emissions in the short term with chemical properties practically identical to that of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
One such ship is MSC’s Euribia which embarked on its landmark net-zero GHG emission maiden voyage from Saint Nazaire, France to Copenhagen, Denmark, between 3 and 8 June 2023. This cruise included a day spent in Amsterdam.
MSC Cruises, whose Euribia net zero GHG emissions voyage netted it the ‘Sustainability initiative of the Year 2023’ at the Seatrade Cruise Awards 2023, is now sharing key data and insights gathered from the journey. The group is confident that this marks a paradigm shift for the cruising sector, proving that net-zero emission cruising is already possible today rather than by the far off target of 2050.
According to MSC, during the four-day voyage, MSC Euribia performed 11% better than her digital twin – a virtual ship reproducing the optimum energy flow and utilisation on board – achieving an overall saving of 43 tonnes of fuel. Optimal speed profiles, routing, trim and engine configuration, and strict optimisation of the hotel’s energy consumption, including HVAC, galleys, and lightings, ensured that MSC Euribia never had to use more than two of its four engines available during the voyage. In addition, all the required heat for galleys, heating systems and hot water on board was recovered from MSC Euribia’s engines, meaning there was no need to utilise the boilers for the entire voyage.
MSC Euribia utilised bio-LNG using a mass-balance system, the most cost-effective and environmentally efficient method of delivering the benefits of renewable LNG, fully recognised by the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). Each batch of bio-LNG produced was certified by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC).
MSC says that the data harvested and information gathered during the trip will be used to optimise the existing ships in the fleet, further driving down emissions intensity across its entire fleet.
Michele Francioni, Senior Vice President of Optimisation for the Cruise Division of MSC Group, commented: “We are extremely proud of this achievement that proves net-zero cruising is possible today. Our engineers on board and our crew led by Captain Battinelli did a fantastic job of optimising the ship’s operation. MSC Euribia truly has the most energy-efficient cruise ship design to-date, but we need greater availability of renewable fuels for the wider maritime industry to consistently repeat this feat. With the right level of support from governments and international institutions in incentivizing acceleration of technological advancements and renewable fuels availability, the industry can achieve net-zero emissions cruising by 2050.”
The law of supply and demand from tourists will also carry some weight. Passengers should be demanding cleaner vessels rather than taking the ocean for granted and resigning themselves to a days of decadence and luxury at the expense of the future of the oceans.
The recent signing of a Letter of Intent between MSC Cruises and Gasum, a fuel supplier, will provide MSC with access to liquefied synthetic gas or e-LNG and, hopefully, further inspiration to continue to break records for the cruise industry.
Linden Coppell, Vice President of Sustainability and ESG for MSC Cruises added: “The partnership with Gasum will enable us to access new and cleaner fuels needed to make a significant step toward net zero cruising. We need more suppliers like Gasum to step up and support our industry. We are ready and waiting to buy more of these new fuels. In the meantime, we will continue to learn from the data from MSC Euribia’s net zero GHG voyage and use these findings as a benchmark for delivering our next LNG vessel.”