According to a report by Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), the cruise market in Asia has grown rapidly over the last few years. The number of cruise ships in Asia rose from 43 in 2013 to 78 in 2016, representing a compound annual growth rate of 12.6 percent. The number of cruises and voyages grew from 861 in 2013 to 2041 in 2018. In recent years, cruise is also gaining popularity in the Meetings and Incentives market.
With faster growth comes greater scrutiny, especially under the backdrop of increasing concerns about climate change. Some critics claimed that in one day, the exhaust from an average cruise ship creates more soot than one million cars, and more sulphur dioxide than 13 million cars. On a week-long voyage, a ship discharges 150,000 gallons of human sewage. (1)
Meetings and incentive programmes on a cruise is attractive to companies and associations due to its “all-inclusive” nature, overall cost savings and easier logistic management. However, these organisations do have to align meetings and incentive programmes with their own core values and social/environmental responsibilities.
At the recent Asian MICE Cruise Conference held in-conjunction with IT&CMA 2019, the speakers recognised the environmental concerns but sought to put things in perspective and presented the sustainability efforts put in by the cruise industry.
Ms Jiali Wong, Regional Manager - Asia, CLIA said at the conference: “The reality is, even though we are actually a very small industry - if you counted all the cabins in all the cruise ships around the world, it would equal less than two percent of all hotel rooms in the world - we are a heavily regulated industry. And if you look at the entire maritime and shipping sector, with only about 400 cruise ships compared to over 50,000 commercial shipping vessels, the cruise sector only represents less than one percent.” (2)
According to the CLIA 2019 Environmental Technologies and Practices Report, the cruise industry has invested USD22 billion in new energy efficiency technologies and cleaner fuels. It has set a target to reduce the rate of carbon emissions by 40 percent by the year 2030, as compared to 2008. All new ships will be equipped with Advanced Wastewater Treatment System (AWTS), which utilises advanced tertiary-level treatment to generate effluent discharges often equivalent to best shoreside treatment plants and, consistent with CLIA policy, well beyond international requirements. Currently 68 percent of global capacity is served by AWTS.
Regarding the allegations on air pollution, most major cruise operators are using Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS) on the ships to reduce sulphur oxide levels by as much as 98 percent, a typical total particulate matter reduction of 50 percent or more, including elemental and organic carbon and black carbon, and nitrogen oxides by up to 12 percent. Newer cruise ships are now using Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) as the primary propulsion because LNG has virtually zero sulphur emissions, a 95 to 100 percent reduction in particulate emissions, an 85 percent reduction in NOx emissions, and up to 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, cruise ships may now operate on shore-side electricity at 16 ports worldwide, reducing overall emissions while at port. These are just some of the general statistics on the cruise industry sustainability efforts based on CLIA studies. Some cruise operators may set even higher standards than what the industry stipulates.
Apart from environmental issues, cruise operators also face accusation of causing “over-tourism” to destinations whenever a ship bring a few thousand tourists at one time to port cities or resorts that may not have the infrastructural and social support to receive this large number of visitors. In response, Angie Stephen, AVP, Managing Director, Asia Pacific of Royal Caribbean Cruises said: “Royal Caribbean Cruises and ITM Group has formed Holistica, an organisation led by a purpose - to make a positive and sustainable impact in destination development while exceeding the expectations of all stakeholders”. Holistica seeks to meet the needs of coastal communities, local governments, as well as land, sea, and air travellers, helping to design the future of destinations globally.
Cruise is a good alternative to land-based corporate meeting venues or incentive travel destinations. An environmentally and socially responsible organiser may want to review individual cruise operators to see if their records align with the company’s core values. At the same time, the organiser should educate its meeting and incentive participants to behave responsibly on the cruise and at the shore destinations.
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