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Sustainable itineraries and emerging markets among Inchcape’s top priorities

Grant Holmes, third from left, at Seatrade Cruise Global 2022. Inchcape will appear at this year's event in Fort Lauderdale, which takes place next week.
Inchcape has turned its attention towards helping to develop more sustainable itineraries, including identifying new and emerging destinations to help prevent overcrowding in well-frequented destinations.

‘We are now engaged in widespread consultations in different parts of the world to develop plans for sustainable ship and passenger capacity for each destination,’ said Grant Holmes, global VP cruise solutions, Inchcape Shipping Services, whose global network spans 850 cruise ports.

‘This means that we calculate what should be the limit for the number of ships and passengers calling at a port on any given day to ensure it remains sustainable. In this way, everybody wins: guests have a better experience, there is less pressure on local resources and tourist attractions, and emissions in port are reduced significantly. The use of electric vehicles also enhances the sustainability of shore excursions.’

Middle East

Inchcape’s consultation work with emerging markets is bearing fruit particularly in the Middle East where facilities for cruise megaships have recently been established. Dubai’s Port Rashid and Dubai Harbour are collectively able to accommodate nine mega ships at once in a sustainable way. Doha’s Grand Cruise Terminal can host two megaships simultaneously, and the number of annual port calls in Qatar has increased from only three a few years ago to as many as 100 following study work by Inchcape.

Abu Dhabi’s cruise calls are also increasing.

Inchcape recently won consultation work with Oman to develop a sustainable cruise tourism strategy along its 3000km of coastline.

Ones to watch

In addition to its work with destinations in the Middle East, the company has been engaged in consulting work with Indian Ocean island countries, including Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, Comoros, Mayotte and Seychelles, and other nations including the Bahamas and India.

On new destinations in emerging markets, Holmes stated, ‘We are putting a lot of work into this and I would say we are at the forefront of helping emerging cruise destinations around the world.’ He maintains the view that new destinations need to be opened up for cruise passengers as demand rebounds post-pandemic, explaining ‘we have too many ships going to the same places at the same time of year.’

He believes there is great potential in Indonesia too where over 2,000 ports of call spread across 17,500 islands typically receive just over 400,000 cruise passengers a year - around half the number of a busy Mediterranean port with hundreds of cruise ship calls annually.

The shore power conundrum

Holmes pointed out that 75% of the existing fleet is capable of running on sustainable marine fuels as these become available at scale and 41% of capacity is equipped for the use of shore power. Furthermore, 61% of newbuilds will be able to run on lower-carbon LNG as their primary propulsion system.

But, asserted Holmes, there remains a lack of available LNG bunkering facilities at many cruise ports, which could limit available destinations for LNG-fuelled megaships – although some are equipped with hybrid solutions to run on conventional marine fuel – and thereby exacerbate port congestion.

Similarly, there is a lack of shore power at ports due to the prohibitive cost of installation, despite the fact the use of shore power would be mandatory for cruise ships in the European Union by 2030 under the proposed FuelEU Maritime directive.

Holmes says these factors reinforce the need for cruise itinerary management with capacity caps on alternative destinations.

The global cruise fleet is set for renewed expansion over the coming years after 14 older and less fuel-efficient ships were retired during the pandemic, which Holmes believes has accelerated the sustainability of the industry given that incoming newbuilds will be more environmentally friendly.

A total of 51 newbuilds are set to be delivered in the period from 2023 to 2025, including 23 megaships, 18 luxury vessels and 10 expedition ships, to expand the existing cruise fleet of 471 ships after 26 new vessels entered into service last year.

Current trends

Holmes explained that the number of cruise calls booked for Inchcape has reached around 6,200 so far this year and is ‘growing fast by the day,’ with the company hoping to reach the annual figure of 10,000 calls achieved pre-pandemic in 2019.

A shift in passenger demand post-pandemic is influencing itineraries, he observed, as well as higher fuel costs due to the war in Ukraine that have resulted in an increased focus on low-mileage cruises by operators.

He has witnessed strong growth in both the luxury and expedition cruise segments.

Inchcape Shipping Services will be a Seatrade Cruise Global at booth #1229.