At the beginning of July, the company Ponant, the French flagship of high-end cruises, presented its new jewel with great fanfare: the Swap2Zero. This luxurious ship, which will only be available in 2030, will be equipped with sails that provide up to 50% of the required propulsion energy. Also on board are 1,000 square meters of photovoltaic panels, high and low temperature fuel cells and an ultra-sophisticated carbon capture system. The clearly defined objective: minimize the environmental impact of this giant of the seas.
In reality, cruise lines sailing in the 175 member countries of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have little choice. In its “Revised Strategy for 2023”, the London-based UN specialized agency set a 2050 deadline to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from maritime transport to zero.
Last June, Norwegian company Hurtigruten, the first cruise line to eliminate heavy fuel oil in 2010 and single-use plastics in 2018, unveiled its new fleet of carbon-free ships, the Sea Zero, which will sail along from the Norwegian coast. Traveling a short distance (four hours maximum) between the 34 ports served, these boats bearing the company’s tricolor (black, white, red) will have the possibility of using batteries and will be equipped with retractable sails.
“The luxury sector must assume its role as an ecological pioneer”
New to the prestigious (luxury) expedition cruise sector, the company Exploris, based in Nantes, launched in 2021 by Philippe Videau, co-founder and former president of Ponant, will inaugurate its first excursion in December 2023: departure from Valparaíso (Chile) and arrival in Ushuaia (Argentina), the legendary southern tip of South America. Instead of building a completely new ship, the company chose to buy a boat already proven in luxury cruises, the “Silver Explorer”, until then owned by the company Silversea Cruises. Acquisition cost of this luxurious seaside hotel (from 600 to 900 euros per day and per person depending on destinations) – 7 decks, 72 cabins and suites, 140 passengers: 25 million euros. “Our boat was built in 1989. At an environmental level, we can say that it largely paid for itself», Explains David Blouin, director of maritime operations at Exploris, who claims to have placed environmental protection at the center of his concept.
“EXPLORIS ONE”: Built in 1989, this ship underwent renovation works in 2018 and 2023 that will allow it to reduce its carbon footprint.
Among the measures implemented to illustrate this profession of faith, the renunciation of heavy fuel oil in favor of more environmentally friendly fuels (MDO, MGO), the modernization of the air conditioning system, the introduction of ultra-modern water-saving devices, the installation of lighting by light emitting diode (LED). “We will regularly publish our carbon footprint as well as our offsets», firmly commits Eric Lustman, the company’s sales and marketing director.
Even though the vast majority of luxury cruises have adopted increasingly less polluting fuels, namely diesel with a low sulfur content, companies do not hesitate to highlight that the main source of energy used by boats continues to be… wind, available naturally and without any emissions. . “We strive to sail as much as possible to reduce fuel consumption. In the Caribbean, where winds are more predictable, our vessels sail approximately 70% of the time, minimizing the use of auxiliary engines that also serve to power the air conditioning system and provide electrical energy for the boats’ daily operation.“, explains Eliana Bouvet, director of sales and marketing at Star Clippers, a Monegasque company whose fleet is made up of three sailboats (“Star Clipper”, “Star Flyer”, “Royal Clipper”) and for which the reduction in the amount of waste is one of the fundamentals.
Therefore, only biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products are used on board the three boats. “Ultra-concentrated formulas, minimalist packaging and innovative delivery systems reduce environmental impact,” she explains. As for wastewater, it is stored in tanks when the ship is in port or close to the coast, and then discharged when the ship is outside the limits of national jurisdictions, in areas designated by international regulations.
Tourism: the French are willing to pay a lot for wellness stays
While awaiting the structuring of a maritime sector for hydrogen, an ideal candidate for zero-emission cruises, luxury companies seem to agree on the need to reduce the speed of their splendid maritime machines. This concept of “slow cruising” is a measure that has the advantage of being cheap and decidedly ecological. Furthermore, although ocean liners are designed to sail the seas at 22 knots, they rarely exceed 15.”For our Swap2Zero we will be at 10 knots, which will prolong the cruise“, explains Ponant, which is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions by 15% in 2026 and 30% in 2030 compared to 2018, and has just spent 40 million euros to update the environmental level of its fleet of 13 ships. “human size” (Maximum 160 cabins) Slow down to save the planet, tourists who pay on average between 5,000 and 25,000 euros to relax in the deep blue, pampered in their floating palace, should be able to do so!
“SWAP2ZERO”: Scheduled for 2030, this ship should be powered by wind and solar energy, but also by low-carbon energy and fuel cells.
Accor takes off
A sailboat with three tilting masts with clean propulsion, assisted by a hybrid engine specific to liquefied natural gas and which will run on green hydrogen when the technology is perfect. It is with the “Orient Express Silenseas” that the global hotel giant Accor enters, for the first time in its history, the highly competitive competition of luxury cruise lines. This 220 meter long ultra-luxury ship, equipped with 2 restaurants, 2 swimming pools and 54 suites, will be built in collaboration with Chantiers de l’Atlantique – around a revolutionary technological design, the sail propulsion system (wind energy sails) SolidSail – and will not begin sailing until spring 2026.
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