Reducing the impact on the environment has been one of the key goals for the cruise industry in recent years. New types of fuel have been researched, with many lines looking to make the shift towards liquefied natural gas (LNG) in an attempt to reduce air pollution. There is, however, one pressing issue that has yet to be tackled by the industry that is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Far too often, single-use waste products have not been disposed of properly - ending up washed onto beaches and proving harmful to marine ecosystems. Many of the industry’s leading cruise lines have acknowledged this problem and are beginning to set plans in motion that will ultimately rectify the ongoing issue.
Last week, Royal Caribbean announced extensive plans to cut all single-use plastic products from its ships. It will start with a review of the amount of single-use plastic products being used on board each of the Royal Caribbean ships and those of the sister brands: Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. The Royal Caribbean Corporation will establish a new plastics team, which will look into cutting down waste within three key areas of the corporation.
The first of these will approach disposable plastic products from on board the ships, with products such as straws and drinks bottles being replaced. There will also be an effort made in the operations side of the corporation, with chairs, bags, staff belts and shoes all being influenced. Finally, the corporation will also strive to influence supply chains, with the belief that this is something that needs to be achieved as a group effort.
Royal Caribbean is one of the biggest lines, with 24 of the world’s largest and most renowned cruise ships currently in operation. This year, the total number of ships will be brought up to 25 with the introduction of Symphony of the Seas. It also brings the total number of ships sailing under the Royal Caribbean Corporation up to 39. With so many large-scale ships in operation – many offering capacities for up to 6,000 guests - the need to make a difference is more evident than ever before.
Following on from this announcement made by Royal Caribbean Corporation, Carnival UK lines, Cunard and P&O Cruises, made a pledge this week to follow in the footsteps of Royal Caribbean. They even went one further by outlining intentions to abolish all single-use plastics from their ships by 2022. Plastic straws, water bottles and coffee stirrers are all on the list of things targeted by the new plans, which will hopefully place the cruise industry in a better light in the coming years.
TV programmes such as Blue Planet II are believed to have been influential in the recent decisions made by cruise lines, as outlined by Carnival UK President, John Weinstein. “Programmes such as Blue Planet have shone a light on the impact plastic can have on our seas and it is our responsibility, as an ocean-going cruise line, to take action now, however many hurdles we have to face along the way.”
“The ocean is a fundamental part of our business but more importantly its preservation and that of the surrounding shores is critical for our future and that of future generations. We, as well as our guests, have a duty to respect and protect it as part of our wider environmental protection.”
To put things into perspective, it is believed that an estimated 12 million tonnes of plastic are disposed of in the world’s oceans every year. These residues are routinely found in fish, seabirds and – astonishingly – marine mammals that live up to seven miles beneath the surface of the sea.
As the cruise industry continues to expand, so too must its attention to detail with regards to environmental and political issues. If the industry is to continue growing at its current rate, it must be willing to adapt to tackle global issues, while also ensuring factors such as passenger safety, satisfaction and value for money.
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