The trade group representing the cruise ship industry has unsuccessfully pushed international authorities to water down new environmental regulations despite its members’ climate commitments, marine air pollution experts warn.
Late last month, the International Maritime Organization rejected a cruise industry effort that would have improved the carbon pollution scores of cruise ships. Environmental groups say it would also have led to increased air pollution by allowing cruise liners to continue operating as usual.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has members who represent 95% of cruise travel worldwide. Its four largest members, Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises, tout their climate awareness and have all pledged to drastically cut emissions.
Yet according to a filing in April, the cruise ship association has pressured members of the International Maritime Organization to change the proposed rules in a way that critics say will lead to increased emissions, while saving cruise lines money.
The International Maritime Organization is the United Nations body responsible for regulating the safety and environmental impact of shipping. Some 175 member states vote on his bill.
The proposed change would “certainly” have had a negative impact on the climate, said John Maggs, chairman of the Clean Shipping Coalition, an umbrella group of environmental groups that has official status with the shipping organization.
“The regulations are very weak anyway, and CLIA is trying to make them even weaker,” said Maggs, who has nearly 30 years in the field. “They are trying to water down the regulations.”
But the cruise industry argues the new regulations distort the efficiency of their ships, which should not be penalized for spending more time in port than freighters.
Maritime transport emits around 2.9% of global carbon dioxide emissions, or just over a billion tonnes of CO2 per year. Cruise liners produce more carbon dioxide per year on average than any other type of ship due to their air conditioning, heated swimming pools and other hotel amenities, studies have shown.
Carnival, which describes itself as “sustainable from ship to shore”, has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit the rise in global temperature at 1.5°C.
Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises each pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, while Norwegian Cruise Lines spoke of a “long-term goal” to achieve climate neutrality.
From 2023, all large ships will be assigned a Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII), calculated by dividing the CO2 output by the ship’s capacity and again by the nautical miles traveled.
It will give ships a durability rating from A to E. If a ship gets a bad rating, it must submit a plan for how it will improve to at least a C, but there is currently no sanctions plan for poorly rated vessels.
Nevertheless, the trade group has lobbied national delegations to the International Maritime Organization, created in the wake of the Titanic disaster, to provide a special allowance for cruise ships. He argued that their ships differed from freighters because of the long stays in port that are part of a cruise liner’s existence – usually with engines running to keep the lights on. This time spent in port hurts the ratings of cruise ships, as they emit more carbon per mile.
“As a result, emissions in the port have a disproportionate impact” on a ship’s degree of carbon intensity, the industry told the agency.
Bill Weihl, a former sustainability manager at Google and Facebook who created Climate Voice, which calls on employees to lobby their companies for climate action, called it a familiar story for corporate America. .
“They say – and sometimes do – good things about the climate, while behind the scenes their trade associations are filibustering and delaying.”
Two-thirds of cruise ships leave their engines running overnight while in port to power guest facilities. This not only affects the climate but also the air quality in port cities. The European city most polluted by cruise ship emissions with sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides was Barcelona, topping a list of 50 affected ports, according to a 2019 report. Two years earlier, some 32 .8 tons of sulfur oxides were emitted there by cruise ships, according to the study.
The cruise ship trade group has argued that if its alternative proposal is not approved, the regulations which come into force in 2023 will create a “perverse incentive” for ships to stay at sea longer to improve their rating. This could lead to an increase in total emissions, they claim.
However, marine air pollution experts say that argument does not hold water because operators cannot be fined for poor ratings, nor can vessels be prevented from sailing.
“More time at sea means spending more on fuel. So that hurts their own bottom line,” said Bryan Comer, who leads the International Council on Clean Transportation’s marine program. cruise ships would emit more because they would have less incentive to invest in technologies that would reduce emissions such as shore power, fuel cells and batteries, he added.
“They could continue with business as usual and still receive more favorable scores that imply they are less carbon intensive than they are.”
During negotiations over the legislation, Denmark, France and Germany had argued for stricter measures: if a ship languished too long in a D or E rating, it would have to have its environmental certificate revoked, which would legally prevent it from to navigate.
Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell denied any disconnect between the company’s public climate statements and the trade group’s efforts before the shipping agency.
The company argues that following the rules as they are written could run counter to its goal of reducing emissions in the real world.
“We peaked our absolute emissions in 2011,” he said.
The company said it opposes measures that could create incentives to increase overall emissions.
When visiting port, the carbon dioxide produced is much lower than when traveling, Frizzell said. Yet cruise ship pollution ratings will be very high. This is because the distance traveled is zero.
A statement released by the trade group said “CLIA and its cruise line members are fully committed to pursuing net-zero carbon cruising by 2050.”
They support in principle the assessment of ships according to the rate of carbon emissions, but argue that the current mechanism for doing so does not measure total carbon dioxide emissions.
“Our call is that the CII formula be adjusted so that it does not unintentionally work against absolute carbon reduction by potentially incentivizing cruise ships to improve their rating by traveling greater distances.”
The International Maritime Organization has invited the cruise ship industry to submit a different proposal by 2026.
Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises did not comment, instead directing The Associated Press to CLIA’s statement.