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Leading figures in European cruising talk decarbonisation and deployment

PHOTO: HOLLY PAYNE Europe-panel-seatrade-cruise.jpg
(L-R): May Bond, Chris Theophilides, Gianni Onorato, Wybcke Meier, Paul Ludlow, Marie-Caroline Laurent on April 9 at Seatrade Cruise Global in Miami
Decarbonisation and deployments plans were among the main topics to emerge during the European CEO Panel this afternoon at Seatrade Cruise Global in Miami.

Moderated by Seatrade Cruise’s group director Mary Bond, it explored challenges surrounding itineraries both within Europe and on the fringes of the continent, destination development and port infrastructure in Europe.

Seatrade Cruise Global kicked off yesterday and concludes on April 11.

Europe in the lead

Immediately before the panel came observations from Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman, cruise division, MSC Group and chairman, CLIA Europe. He described cruise tourism as ‘flourishing’ in Europe but alluded to inequalities between decarbonisation in aviation versus cruise. He called for ‘a level playing field,’ mirroring sentiments expressed during CLIA Cruise Week in March, and said: ‘Aviation is really benefiting from clear incentives.’

Vago went on to say that there was an argument for focusing efforts on one type of fuel, like in aviation, as opposed to various research efforts into different fuel types.

On the European Union emissions trading system (ETS), he explained, ‘This applies not only to ships sailing between two European ports, but also to ships transiting throughout the continent. So, there is an impact if a ship comes from international waters into Europe, as well as within Europe. At a more strategic level, the new EU regulations will impact the shape of any future measures that will be adopted by the IMO, specifically with respect to the introduction of a Global Fuel Standard and a carbon pricing mechanism.’

Europe is taking the lead regarding accelerating decarbonisation, Vago said, citing Fit for 55.

In destinations, the industry must unite to address concerns around overcrowding and develop solutions based on ‘facts and data, not opinions.’ His advice was also to ‘redouble efforts to engage with municipalities and local communities.’

To port representatives, he said, ‘We need to improve, we need to do so much more. Ports have a lot to do to make sure we reach out emission goals.’ The carbon intensity indicator (CII) is flawed when applied to cruise, which is why ‘If we have the capability to actually plug in [with shore power] the CII will no longer have an effect on our performance and on our itineraries,' Vago stated.

Regulation challenges

The panel kicked off following the remarks, with Marie-Caroline Laurent director general, Europe, CLIA also addressing challenges with current and forthcoming regulations. New border requirements in Europe mean by October/November ‘you can forget about being a turnaround port, it is as simple as that’ unless the right measures are implemented, stated the director general for Europe at CLIA.

‘The first step is the implementation of the entry exit system at EU level for all EU ports and airports. And that's what will require registration of Third Country Nationals at the border. So, the October/November deadline speaks to the physical capability for the border authorities to register these passengers,’ she explained.

‘The second step is ETS – a similar system to the ESTA or ETA [visas]. This will be applicable six months after the entry exit system… with our fashionably late European Union, around summer 2025. And that's where your passengers will need to have applied to that ETS before travelling and that's what needs education, communication, etc.’

MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato remarked that the major task ‘will be to train the travel agents and travel partners, and to very strongly communicate this to our customers. Because they will not be used to it. It will be a big job from our side, a big job with big investments of time and resources. It's not an easy task.’

Laurent said challenges at European ports included difficulties in finding the right provider to maintain rigorous recycling process. When it comes to the environment, ‘…It is not just about the emissions, it's also about our waste management. And I think that is where there's huge room for manoeuvre and for improvement in Europe, across the different ports,’ she stated.  


‘We have done a lot in Europe in terms of growth, almost 70% of our capacity is deployed in Europe,’ Onorato stated. ‘We're also looking at other destinations, specifically in North America and also in Asia, to diversify our business and to have the opportunity to maintain a solid position in Europe…we have new builds coming, which will allow us to do so.’

Instead of deadheading around Africa to avoid the Suez Canal amid insecurity in the Red Sea, Celestyal Cruises is deliberating embedding the journey into cruise itineraries. The line’s CEO Chris Theophilides explained, ‘The Israel conflict in Gaza… had an immediate impact. It was probably the worst timing that could have happened, because we were just launching our annual programme in that area.’ He continued, ‘…We actually rolled our future deployment one year forward.’ Plans to operate in the Adriatic and Arabian Gulf in 2026/27 were brought forward.

‘The Arabian Gulf is quite calm,’ he added, ‘for us, the discussion is how do we get the ship there and back. It's more about that then than anything else. And to be to be honest, we're deliberating baking this into our deployment, the fact that we will go the long way around… you cannot leave things up to chance.’

Insecurity in the Red Sea has affected Carnival UK, as its president Paul Ludlow confirmed. However, ‘one of the benefits around cruise operations is that our assets are mobile, we're able to respond to a change in dynamics… And the consumers are sympathetic to what's happening on the world stage… We had a number of world cruises that were affected this year on the way back to the UK, and we had to go the long way around.’

Wybcke Meier, CEO, TUI Cruises, expressed a similar view, ‘I can emphasise what Paul said. It adds complexity, it requires more planning and, of course, comes with a price tag to reroute and go around Africa, and so on. But if we compare the flexibility we have in our industry, compared to the tourism industry in the countries which are affected... we are much better off.’


On infrastructure Theophilides said that ‘in the Eastern Med, a nice development that we've been seeing over the last few years, which is continuing, is the ongoing privatisation of ports. It allows for more investment, and a counterpart that you can engage with and talk to about the needs of the cruise industry to really develop a plan forward.’