Earlier this year, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry's largest trade association, announced an astonishing and admirable goal: net-zero emissions for its oceangoing members by 2050. And one of the key ways to make it happen is to outfit all the world's cruise ports with hookups that allow ships to turn off their main and auxiliary diesel engines and plug in to on-shore power. According to the Port of Seattle, home to lines like Holland America, plugging in lets the average cruise ship save the greenhouse-gas equivalent of 30 road trips between Seattle and New York.
The technology has been around since Princess Cruises launched it in Juneau, Alaska, back in 2001, but it's now gaining traction around the world. Cunard's Queen Mary 2 can connect to shore power on both sides of the Atlantic, thanks to new facilities launched in April in Southampton, and preexisting ones in Brooklyn. In 2024, Sydney's White Bay Cruise Terminal will become the first shore-powered cruise port in the Southern Hemisphere when it adds a renewable-energy precinct that will eliminate 14,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The Port of Miami, site of more than 1,200 sailings a year, has embarked on a shore-power project funded in part by the US Environmental Protection Agency's Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. Miami is an example of the shift toward green-power ports that can handle multiple ships, rather than one at a time; Tallinn, Estonia, one of the fastest-growing cruise hubs in Eastern Europe, now has shore power on five piers.
But ports are only half the equation. Ships must also be able to plug in. Most new vessels are being built with this capability, and older ships are being retrofitted with new systems. Nearly half of all ships in the Carnival Cruise Lines fleet are now plug-in capable. Seabourn is also actively retrofitting its fleet, with Ovation done and Odyssey on its way. With cooperation like this, CLIA might actually hit its mark.
This article appeared in the October 2022 issue of Condé Nast Traveller, and was originally published on Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.