Some perspectives during European Shipping Week from Tom Boardley, Secretary General, Cruise Lines International Association


European Shipping Week is always a great occasion to meet up with colleagues and friends from across the industry, exchange views and catch up on latest trends. This year was no exception and, with the European Green Deal now tabled, the timing was a good opportunity to discuss the Commission’s proposed roadmap to a carbon neutral future. Whilst not so many years ago, sustainability may only have been the topic of a fringe meeting, it is now taking centre stage, and rightly so.

Sustainability is certainly now in the DNA of the cruise industry. I was particularly pleased, therefore, that CLIA was able to host a session during the week to discuss the strides that the cruise industry is making towards decarbonisation. With representatives from the European Commission, cruise lines and ports, the discussion was wide-ranging and touched on how value creation, sustainable growth and responsible tourism can all go hand in hand.

We recognise our responsibility and, increasingly, our passengers want to know they are choosing a sustainable form of travel. In fact, some of the most exciting environmental innovations can be found on cruise ships. And cruise ships are constantly testing new approaches – whether LNG, battery use, or other alternative fuels – but innovation requires time, investment and collaboration if it is to be scaled up effectively and safely.

Collaboration was, in fact, a theme I heard raised in more than one session this week, with calls for the private and public sector to work together if transformational change is to be achieved. Whether through incentivisation or investment in Research and Development, it is clear we will need to work together if we are to identify the technological innovations needed to meet the sheer scale of society’s carbon challenge.

Shipbuilding is one of Europe’s success stories. The world’s most magnificent ocean cruise ships are all constructed within Europe. Many thousands of people performing highly skilled work across multiple countries, strengthening local economies and nurturing talent for future generations. Let’s work together with all our partners to ensure that this success is sustainable for the benefits of all, socially, economically and environmentally.

One of the most encouraging signs from this week is the open-minded approach from shipowners, regulators, NGOs and other stakeholders to the options for decarbonizing the industry. The phrase “it will never work” was absent from the discussion, as everyone wrestles with finding the right path to a low carbon future, without jeopardizing the economic prospects for the next generation.