There has been a worldwide movement to boost sustainability and environmentally friendly measures in recent years. However, according to the boss of expedition specialists Hurtigruten, the cruise industry can up its game.
Standing in a what can only be described as a deathly cold warehouse, Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam exudes confidence and passion. He knows the subject matter like the back of his hand, but his answers and explanations do not sound rehearsed, rather they appear to be derived from a genuine belief that what his colleagues and he are doing is right.
The topic of discussion is the MS Roald Amundsen – Hurtigruten’s newest ship and the first of three that will boost the company’s fleet to 17.
Amundsen launches in 2019, with a maiden voyage from Lisbon to Hamburg departing 17 May, while its sister ships – MS Fridtjof Nansen and the unnamed third – arrive in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
What makes these ships different – aside from the usual enhancements in public spaces, restaurants and suites – can be found in the engine room. No, it’s not particularly glamorous, but it’s the detail that’s important.
Amundsen and its sisters will be the world’s first hybrid-powered ships, striking what is hoped will be the first of many crucial blows in the fight to cut emissions on the world’s oceans.
In layman’s terms, hybrid means the ships can use battery technology at particular points in a voyage, thereby cutting emissions by as much as 20 per cent.
“When we designed the new ships, we looked at how technology would develop and the supply chain alongside it, and we decided on hybrid technology as it is by far the most environmentally friendly solution for the areas we sail in,” Skjeldam tells Cruise Trade News during a shipyard visit to see Amundsen in Alesund, Norway.
“It’s a stepping stone for the future. We don’t think hybrid is the end game for the cruise industry, but it is an important step.
“It’s cutting emissions by 20 per cent, so that’s a significant reduction. In addition, we are sailing on marine gas oil on all of our operations – we never use heavy fuel oil.”
‘We are guests at destinations’
However, Hurtigruten is not stopping there. It completed a ban on all single-use plastics in just five months, is advocating a heavy fuel oil ban in the Arctic, and also recently announced a headline-grabbing initiative to use dead fish and waste – also known as biogas – as a power source.
Biogas will be introduced in the fourth quarter of next year and could eventually be used on as many as six ships. “We need to ensure the supply chain is there,” says Skjeldam. “If that works, we will convert more ships in the future.”
It is the speed of these developments that leads to the inevitable question – is the industry as a whole doing enough to protect the environment? Short answer, not in Skjeldam’s view.
He explains: “As an industry, we need to have much more focus on sustainability and face the issues of overcrowding. We need to ensure that when we complete a port call or landing, we leave that place in better shape than when we found it. After all, we are guests in these places.”
That’s all well and good, but do customers truly consider how clean and environmentally friendly a cruise line is when booking their holiday? Well, yes. “The world is moving towards a more sustainable future,” says Skjeldam, adding that when guests choose their cruise line, “they will choose one that is taking this seriously”.
On the issue of choice, the expedition sector is growing rapidly, as people search for more experiential and authentic experiences. That, of course, is music to Skjeldam and Hurtigruten’s ears, but also means more competition than possibly ever before. Not that he is worried. “We’ve been doing this for 125 years; no one knows these waters like us,” he says.
As for the UK travel agents, Skjeldam believes they should highlight the “fantastic” experiences the line offers. “They [agents] can be proud of sending their guests on a cruise with us and our guests go home with amazing memories and experiences.”
And with that it’s back to yet another cup of coffee – complete with complimentary mug – to beat out the cold.