The boss of the shipping company Tui Cruises, Wybcke Meier, is convinced that the cruise industry will “return to its old strength” despite all the criticism about high emissions and mass tourism in the port cities.
“The potential” is “much greater” than before the pandemic, says Meier in the podcast “Fast Lane” from Tagesspiegel Background. In 2019, the last normal year for cruises, 2.6 million Germans went on vacation on the high seas.
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“It won’t be a mass market,” says Meier. But the market in Germany alone is good for four to five million passengers, according to their forecast. Around 30 million people worldwide went on board before Corona, so almost every tenth came from Germany.
Tui Cruises operates the Mein-Schiff fleet with a maximum of 2900 passengers per ship, as well as the fleet taken over from Hapag Lloyd (MS Europa) two years ago with its luxury and expedition cruisers. In addition to the German travel group Tui, the American shipping company Royal Caribbean Cruises is the second shareholder. Royal Caribbean also operates ships in the world’s largest class with over 6000 passengers.
Meier rejects the criticism of the floating holiday clubs because of the high greenhouse gas emissions. The crusaders are “pioneers” in reducing emissions in maritime shipping. Tui Cruises itself operates the “most energy-efficient fleet in the world”. All Mein ships are equipped with exhaust gas after-treatment systems to separate sulfur oxides and soot, as well as shore power systems. Unfortunately, so far only seven percent of all cruise ports have shore power systems.
In 2030, the first ships in the Tui fleet will be completely climate-neutral, Meier assures. The prerequisite, however, is that there will be enough biofuels by then. “Sufficient availability,” she admits, “is the big unknown.” In any case, so-called bio-fuels are currently not being produced to the required extent.
Meier does not believe that other drives, such as those with fuel cells, will be an alternative in the future. LNG is also only a “bridging technology”. In the summer, the EU Commission intends to pass new and stricter requirements for reducing emissions in maritime shipping.
Meier demands that the EU should take into account that the crusaders are “already doing a great deal”. According to Statista, maritime shipping was responsible for 2.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. And only one percent of the ships, says Meier, are crusaders.
On the other hand, the industry is confronted with another self-made problem: mass tourism in the cruise ports. For example, in Barcelona, Europe’s most popular destination, 2.7 million passengers boarded and disembarked each year before the pandemic. And on some days, thousands of crusaders go ashore at the same time in Venice or Dubrovnik in Croatia.
The industry has recognized the problem, Meier assures. And the shipping companies, like the affected cities, are “not interested in overcrowding” because the guests would then complain. However, Meier points out that the ports allocate the berths and only “if they do it well, then it won’t happen that too many ships are there at the same time”.
The Tui Cruises boss, who has held her position since 2014, also admits in the podcast that the industry “could have started earlier to coordinate the allocation of berths”. An agreement has now been found for Dubrovnik, whose old town is a World Heritage Site. The number of shore leave is now limited.