Cruise lines have sprung to the defence of the sustainability merits of liquefied natural gas (LNG) after an environmental pressure group accused the industry of attempting to mislead consumers into believing the fuel source is a viable climate solution.
Several of the world’s biggest cruise lines have disputed claims made by an environmental pressure group they are trying to “gaslight” consumers into believing LNG – which it claims is a polluting fossil fuel – is a climate solution.
NGO Opportunity Green (OG) has filed a series of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) against lines such as Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises and Costa Cruises to try to put an end to the alleged “LNG greenwashing”.
OG legal officer Isabela Keuschnigg said despite what the cruise companies investing heavily in the fuel would suggest, fossil LNG is and will remain a “polluting fossil fuel”.
Alongside the complaints, OG has also published a report entitled (Un)Sustainable from Ship to Shore, which highlights the “systemic” nature of the cruise industry’s “misleading” advertising.
LNG in the spotlight
The report identified three communication strategies being used by several companies which OG claimed risk breaching advertising rules in the UK, including advertising the use of fossil LNG as an emission-reducing, environmentally friendly fuel and a specific initiative of reaching net zero by 2050.
“[LNG] is not an alternative fuel solution which is consistent with the 1.5°C temperature goal as enshrined in the Paris Agreement,” Keuschnigg argued.
According to OG, evidence suggests fossil LNG has “devastating” implications for the climate as it consists mainly of methane, making it a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that has climate impacts over 80 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
“Cruise companies might be quick to point out carbon emissions savings or air pollution benefits linked to the use of fossil LNG in cruise ships, but they keep quiet about the fuel’s methane emissions, even though research has shown that these can cancel out the supposed climate benefits,” Keuschnigg continued.
OG is calling on cruise lines to stop advertising LNG as a climate solution – which it claims risks misleading consumers as to the true sustainability of their holiday – and halt investments into the fuel source as a purported climate solution.
‘A viable step’ for cruise sustainability
The accusations were strongly disputed by Princess Cruises senior vice-president of communications Vicki Johnson, who says the line is actively taking steps to ensure its public statements are “accurate, truthful, substantiated and aligned” with its environmental strategy.
“And we stand by the social message we shared earlier this summer, related to the addition of the first LNG-powered ship – Sun Princess – to the Princess fleet in early 2024,” she adds.
Echoing Johnson, a spokesperson for parent company Carnival Corporation – which also owns Carnival and Costa – says investing in LNG-powered vessels is one way the organisation is pursuing its ambition to achieve net-zero carbon ship operations by 2050.
They explain: “LNG delivers immediate GHG reductions, and in the absence of market-ready zero-emission fuels, is the best available fuel to help cut ship greenhouse gas emissions now.
“The bottom line: LNG provides a viable step along the transition pathway to full decarbonisation with future bioLNG and other renewable fuels when they become available.”
MSC Cruises also rejected Opportunity Green’s allegations from a factual and scientific perspective that its communications about LNG fuel are misleading consumers, amounts to greenwashing or breaches any applicable legal and regulatory requirements.
“We have not claimed that fossil-based LNG represents a solution for net zero greenhouse emissions but have stated repeatedly that it is a transitional fuel, a positive step in the right direction and currently the cleanest and only marine fossil fuel available at scale to help us towards achieving our net zero GHG target by 2050,” a spokesperson explains.
The line said it is working with suppliers to boost the availability of alternative fuels from synthetic and bio sources – which it believes can be a long-term fuel solution – but remained adamant fossil-based LNG continues to currently be the fuel with the lowest GHG emissions available at scale.
MSC’s LNG-fuelled vessels allow for the utilisation of bio-methane and synthetic methane which, when available at scale, will “significantly” reduce GHG emissions towards the line’s net zero target and further boost sustainability.