The views were expressed during a speech by Vago at the CLIA European Summit in Paris, taking place March 8-10.
‘European shipbuilding is truly at the heart of clean tech and industrial innovation,’ he said, reminding spectators that 93% of the world’s ocean-going cruise ships are built in Europe with cruise ship building representing around 80% of the order book of shipyards in Europe.
He added, ‘This is one of the backbones of Europe’s industry and is important that this is fully appreciated. Today is therefore an important moment as Europe’s shipping associations come together to stress the urgency of supporting the continued growth of flagship industries like shipbuilding and defend their strategic know how – which in this case, goes well beyond cruise shipbuilding.
‘Let me remind you all we have already lost the bulk of our shipbuilding industry to Asia, and Europe now risks losing complex shipbuilding too.’
Vago stated the industry continues to make investment in technologies that will result in a zero-carbon future. He listed fuel cells, batteries, and new propulsion solutions as among these new innovations, before touching on the topic of developing sustainable marine fuels.
Fuels of the future
‘We all agree that Fuel cells, LNG and biofuels are what we need for the current transition phase,’ said Vago, ‘but we need to move now to secure a supply of renewable fuels at the scale required not just for cruise but for the entire maritime sector.’
He continued, ‘We want specific targets for production of renewable marine fuels to be adopted at EU and national level to accelerate investment and deployment. And national renewable energy plans to fully include the needs for infrastructure and deployment of renewable fuels at EU ports.’
By doing this, it will put Europe at the centre of cleantech development for decades to come, said the CLIA global chair.
‘We, the cruise industry, came up with the protocol that unlocked travel during the pandemic - and now we stand ready to help European institutions solve climate change.’
Too little too late?
The European Commission set out a vision to become the first carbon neutral continent with the EU Green Deal Industrial Plan, said Vago, yet the plan risks being ‘too little, too late.’ He said that while the EU Commission’s proposal recognises that ‘industry has the ingenuity and the skills base to solve the climate challenge – a very important first step in the right direction,’ it remains the case that ‘the EU is still not receptive to hearing our voice and understanding the unique contributions the cruise industry makes.’
Key to enabling the progression of environmental technologies is the ability to secure funding, noted Vago, describing how some of Europe’s biggest partners are seizing net-zero industrial opportunities and stepping up the game with highly ambitious industrial policy proposals.
In the US, the Inflation Reduction Act will mobilize $370b to accelerate private investment in clean energy.
Said the MSC Cruises executive chairman, ‘In the current climate, it is becoming more challenging to secure funding from financial institutions to build the next generation ships that allow us to test and roll out continuously improving environmental technologies for our industry… Most important in all this is the role of credit export agencies, they need to be able to do their job.’