Photo Credit: Travel Market Report

River cruising, just like the rest of the world, is discussing their environmental impact on the earth. At CLIA’s (Cruise Lines International Association) session on sustainability in UK & Ireland this year, river companies made assurances that they are taking serious steps to improve their environmental policies. They’ve started to reduce their carbon footprint with electronic communications, reducing and recycling waste, banishing single-use plastics, and they’ll be introducing a new generation of battery-powered vessels.

Giles Hawke, CEO of Cosmos and Avalon Waterways, said: “All the river cruise lines are doing something about sustainability at varying levels. Because we do not have large ships carrying thousands of passengers, we can adapt and do things very quickly, such as removing straws and single-use plastics in a very short space of time.” Avalon Waterways has taken on conservation efforts to attain greater sustainability. One of the ways they are making progress is by reducing their paper waste; they achieved an 80% reduction in paper use over 2 years by making their travel documents electronic and adopting the trend of e-documents.

The AvalonGo app was created for their electronic media: it will assist with maps, ship activities and shore excursions. In addition to other initiatives such as washable fabric laundry bags, no plastic straws and refillable water bottles, the change to LED light bulbs has reduced energy consumption by 90% compared to the incandescent bulbs of the past. Giles also noted that the environmental emissions on a ship in one day of river cruising produced less environmental impact than a group of 5-8 people flying economy class to New York.

Avalon Waterways and its parent company, Globus Family of Brands, have donated money to The Ocean Cleanup, which is a nonprofit working to clean up plastic from the international oceans. They are committed to cleaning 50% of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in 50 years.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is also making their contributions to more eco-friendly ships by offering “voluntourism,” a reference to shore excursions that contribute to local communities. Guests have the option to add 5 days ahead of their Golden Triangle & Sacred Ganges itinerary to work on development projects with local volunteers. In addition to reducing waste, Uniworld is committed to banning more than 60 kinds of plastic by 2022, using their energy more efficiently, and participating in carbon-offset programs. They have also moved into using e-documents and will collaborate with One Tree planted, a non-profit focused on global reforestation.

Other green river cruises include Viking and AmaWaterways have installed diesel-electric hybrid engines in an effort to lessen fuel consumption.

A-Rosa River Cruises is pioneering the way with the introduction of their eco-friendly “E-Motion” river vessels. The 140-cabin river ships, planned for delivery in 20121, will reduce the carbon footprint, and a sister ship is planned for delivery in 2023. These vessels will have battery propulsion for emission-free sailing in and out of ports. The vessel will switch to battery power when approaching the destination in an effort to reduce the emissions in port, and the battery can be charged overnight before the ship’s departure, so the ship can depart emission-free as well. These ships will also be built with “air bubble” technology to reduce fuel consumption.

Matthias Lutter, head of new-building for A-Rosa stated that it’s not practical for river vessels to use Liquefied natural gas (LNG) like the new ocean ships. River vessels are much smaller, usually carrying fewer than 200 passengers, and the equipment required for LNG would use too much valuable and limited space on the smaller river vessels. Lutter also commented that A-Rosa is exploring the use of E-fuels with zero CO2 emissions.

There is a clear need for, and a trend toward, more eco-friendly ships on the oceans and rivers, and it’s impressive to see the steps the cruise industry is taking to make this happen.