Industry and Pacific Northwest partners want cruising to go zero-emission by 2050

Celebrity Millennium cruise ship in downtown Juneau 2022 05 17
The Celebrity Millennium cruise ship docked at one of Juneau’s two city-owned cruise ship berths on May 17, 2022. Celebrity Cruises is a subsidiary of the Royal Caribbean Group, one of many cruise ship companies aiming to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The cruise industry and several Pacific Northwest ports announced Tuesday that they are working together to try to eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from cruising in the region.

Lots of partners are signing onto the effort to develop the world’s first “green corridor” for cruise ships. It’s an early first step toward a goal they want to achieve by 2050. The idea is to work together to develop technology, infrastructure and best practices so that cruises no longer pump greenhouse gases that cause global climate change into the atmosphere.

Partners so far include the City and Borough of Juneau, the port authorities in Seattle and Vancouver, international shipping organizations and the operators of almost every big cruise ship in the region.

“When Port of Seattle first reached out to us about this concept, we were very excited and quite frankly, a little surprised,” said Jesse Fahnestock with the Global Maritime Forum, which works on maritime sustainability issues. “We didn’t anticipate as we were working on this that cruises would be one of the first mover segments on green corridors. But we very much agree that, having looked at the concept presented, that this is a really promising opportunity. If it can be done anywhere, it can be done here, in the Pacific Northwest.”

A single cruise ship can burn thousands of gallons of fuel a day.

Kelly Craighead leads the industry group Cruise Lines International Association. She said CLIA and many other stakeholders want the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization to develop a massive, $5 billion research and development fund.

“Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, MSC Cruises and many others are willing to invest deeply into these types of collaborative R&D funds, because it is going to take that level of investment to be able to develop the technologies that don’t currently exist,” Craighead said.

Jan Swartz is the president of the Holland America Group, a subsidiary of Carnival. She said her company already has its own R&D team working on new technologies to make cruise ships more efficient and to use alternatives to fossil fuels.

“We’re really excited to bring to the table our learnings … to share with others in the maritime sector and seek similar ideas from them so that we can accelerate our collective progress faster,” she said.

She shared some examples of technologies being researched or piloted:

  • Air lubrication systems that create a carpet of bubbles under a ship’s hull, reducing resistance and improving energy efficiency.
  • Using electric battery packs on cruise ships.
  • Dual-fuel systems that can burn liquefied natural gas.

The structure and scope of how the partners will work on this green corridor still has to be worked out. An official with the Port of Seattle Executive Director Stephen Metruck said he expects to get all of the partners together in the next 30 days to begin work on a charter for the group.

Alexandra Pierce is Juneau’s tourism manager. She said this partnership can be a model for the rest of the world.

“We were the first port in the world to have shore power, and I think it’s really appropriate that we lead the world in this, too, and continue to push the envelope on environmental policy and practice in the cruise world,” Pierce said. “Someone, somewhere needs to figure out what the roadmap looks like to get industry there.”

The green corridor partners announced their collaboration during a conference on ports and harbors in Vancouver.

Jeremy Hsieh

Local News Reporter, KTOO

I dig into questions about the forces and institutions that shape Juneau, big and small, delightful and outrageous. What stirs you up about how Juneau is built and how the city works?

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