MIAMI BEACH -- If the cruise industry can figure out how to survive a pandemic, it can solve the problems necessary to increase the industry's environmental sustainability.
That was the prevailing message at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference keynote speech and state of the industry panel Tuesday, where cruise line CEOs and leaders in the industry stressed their environmental responsibility as they tried to put the pandemic in the past.
"In the coming years, we'll be judged by what we do on sustainability," Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA said in her keynote to a convention hall of hundreds of cruise industry professionals.
While sustainability was an ongoing conversation before the pandemic, it was the main focus of the conference's keynote. According to Craighead, CLIA's oceangoing cruise line members are pursuing a goal of net-zero carbon cruising by 2050, a bigger lift than the association's previous commitment to pursue carbon neutrality by the same deadline.
Carbon neutrality means carbon emissions are offset by some other means for a net-neutral impact. Net-zero means no carbon is emitted.
Craighead also said that all member cruise lines will be equipped to connect to shoreside electricity facilities at ports no later than 2035.
Cruise CEOs chime in on sustainability
The theme of environmental sustainability struck a chord with a panel of cruise line executives who say they have been working toward reducing their environmental footprint.
"It's as high of a priority as we possibly have," Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, said during a panel discussion following Craighead's keynote speech. He said every class of ship the company has produced has been 20% more efficient than the class before it.
Carnival Corporation's fleets peaked in outgoing emissions in 2011, said Arnold Donald, the company's CEO, who since January has also held the title of chief climate officer. Ship capacity has grown by about 45% since then, yet the company has fewer emissions, he said, the result of replacing older ships with newer ones equipped with more efficient technologies. The company will have six ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) by the end of 2022.
"We're on a hard march to get to zero emissions," Donald said.
However, some technology to get cruise lines to net-zero emissions have not yet come to fruition, said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Group.
The industry will continue to invest in technologies to help cruise lines meet these zero-emissions goals, he said, pointing to LNG, fuel cells, green hydrogen and other fuels and technologies.
"LNG-powered cruise ships are already a reality," Vago said. "As soon as suppliers are ready to replace fossil LNG with bio and synthetic forms, [cruise ships] would be able to operate with zero-emission."
Others are also ready to receive shore power at ports to minimize emissions, he added.
"The cruise industry is ready to plug in," Vago said.