The sustainable future of cruising

The sustainable future of cruising

Jul. 29 2022 - 4 min

Decarbonization – and more generally sustainability – is one of the biggest challenges industries and people worldwide currently face. The cruise industry is no exception. Achieving sustainability is critical both for the environment and for the longevity and success of the cruise industry itself.

As William Burke, Chief Maritime Officer of Carnival, said, “Guests value sustainability, and this is equally important to ports, destinations and cruise operators like us.” In response, the industry is reimagining all aspects of cruising to meet the 2030 sustainability goals and reduce carbon footprints.

Increasing flexibility in routes and schedules

The cruise industry is already rethinking even the fundamentals to become more sustainable. Insights from research in the shipping industry are resulting in better route and speed optimization. Changes in basics like arrivals, departures and schedules – which directly affect speed and fuel consumption – can have significant carbon-reduction benefits. Rather than battling conditions like wind, tides and currents, cruise ships can utilize those factors to adapt their itineraries to reduce their fuel consumption.

Newbuilding and R&D Director of Ponant, Mathieu Petiteau echoes this logic, saying that to reduce emissions, “We need to rethink the traditional commercial model. Itineraries should be adapted to sailing conditions to maximize efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.

Cruise itineraries may also come to depend on the availability of fuel to bunker, as alternative fuels become more widely used in the industry. Similarly, the infrastructure of the port of call is a key factor, for example the availability of shore power connectivity and waste reception. Guests’ expectations as well as local requirements relating to sustainability and emissions will also have an impact on itineraries. This may result in shorter port calls if economical, or longer overnight stays. Flexibility will be key for cruise ships as they transition to a more sustainable model.

Cruise ships and alternative fuels

Availability and pricing of alternative fuels and technological maturity will surely be critical components of the cruise industry’s plan for reaching the IMO’s 2050 decarbonization targets. The industry and its stakeholders are exploring several options including biofuels, methanol, ammonia, hydrogen, even nuclear and wind-assisted propulsion. Batteries and fuel cells able to fully or partially support the zero-carbon transition are also being explored.


LNG is one of the alternative fuels available today with the benefit of producing almost no sulfur oxide and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fuels. However, LNG does have drawbacks, such as complex refueling logistics and methane slip. LNG is also a fossil fuel and as yet green LNG from renewable energy sources is not available at the necessary scale.

Hydrogen fuel cells

Fuel cells using green hydrogen could provide a carbon-free transitional solution. However, today’s fuel cells have a limited power output compared to traditional generators. Equally, as hydrogen has specific storage requirements, its use may have impact on ship design. 

Bureau Veritas: supporting the cruise industry’s transition

Thanks to our industry and client proximity, Bureau Veritas understands the sustainability challenges they face. We have a long history of working with cruise lines, performing inspections, audits and providing risk-based analyses on safety and environmental concerns. Our expertise and guidance help clients to analyze these risks and mitigate their impacts and costs while increasing passenger satisfaction and safety. We also offer expertise in alternative fuels and we are actively involved in multiple projects to increase the feasibility of alternative technologies such as fuel cells and batteries.

For example, we supported Ponant from the initial design phase of its LNG-fueled polar cruise ship. Bureau Veritas classed Le Commandant Charcot and assisted with studies related to the LNG membrane tank, bunkering and risk analysis.

We’re by your side to help you achieve your sustainability goals and lead the transition to a greener future.