Can we achieve eco-friendly cruising? The future of zero-emission ships

Imagine taking a cruise along the stunning coast of Norway, surrounded by snow-covered peaks and the gentle sounds of lapping waves. With their proposed “zero-emission” ship set to sail in 2030, specialty cruise line Hurtigruten Norway aims to provide passengers with a unique and environmentally friendly cruising experience. Gerry Larsson-Fedde, COO for Hurtigruten Norway, highlights the advantages of these ships, including their quietness, which allows passengers to fully immerse themselves in the serene surroundings.

What is a ‘zero-emission’ cruise ship?

Hurtigruten Norway's zero-emission ship will be powered by a combination of batteries, retractable sails with solar panels, and advanced technologies such as underwater air lubrication to reduce drag. The ship's 60 megawatt-hour battery system represents a significant upgrade and will be charged at various ports along the sailing route. The line selected ports that can provide the necessary power, and the abundance of sunlight in Norway during the months will also contribute to the ship's energy needs.

What is a ‘net-zero’ emissions cruise?

MSC Cruises recently achieved a milestone in sustainability by completing its first “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions sailing. The voyage utilized bio-LNG, a carbon-neutral fuel produced from agricultural and municipal waste residues. Bio-LNG absorbs carbon during production and releases it when burned, resulting in a potential carbon-neutral impact. While alternative fuels like bio-LNG are not widely available, MSC Cruises aims to raise awareness and encourage the development of greener fuel options.

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Is ‘zero-emission’ or ‘net-zero’ cruising achievable?

While cruise lines have made significant investments in cleaner-burning fuels and alternative technologies, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to decarbonizing the marine industry. Ships like those operated by Hurtigruten Norway may be suitable for short-range cruises but would not be practical for longer deep-sea voyages. The availability of renewable energy sources and alternative fuels also varies from region to region. Achieving zero-emission cruising globally will require further technological advancements, infrastructure development, and government support.

How are cruise ships embracing greener practices?

In addition to adopting cleaner fuels and technologies, cruise lines are implementing various energy-efficient measures. Hurtigruten plans to use heat exchange pumps and advanced energy control systems on its ships, allowing passengers to manage their energy consumption. MSC's recent sailing optimized speed profiles and onboard systems to reduce carbon emissions. French cruise line Ponant has also announced plans for an emissions-free ship utilizing wind, solar power, and fuel cells. These initiatives demonstrate the industry's commitment to reducing its environmental footprint.

To achieve the goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050, cruise lines must make critical decisions in the coming years. Hurtigruten will spend the next two years conducting research and development before beginning construction on their zero-emission ship. MSC Cruises aims to continue advocating for the scalability and cost parity of alternative fuels. As the industry progresses, the future of eco-friendly cruising looks promising, driven by innovation, collaboration, and sustainability.

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