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On the move with LNG: How climate-friendly is my cruise?


ZEIT ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates

Rostock (dpa / tmn) - How do holiday trips and climate protection go together? Since Fridays for Future, many people have become aware of this question. Flying is particularly suspected. Because the aircraft is considered particularly harmful to the climate. But what about the cruise?

The form of travel is loved by some and defamed as an environmental sin by others. A first answer in advance: It depends.

Shipping companies rely on LNG ships

The shipping companies are currently advertising heavily with their new LNG ships. Driving with LPG is less harmful to the environment, and emissions are reduced. With the “Aida Nova”, Aida Cruises put the first LNG cruise ship into service in 2018, most recently the “Costa Smeralda” was launched. Further LNG ships are planned.

So cruising without a guilty conscience? Not at all. The emission of fine dust and sulfur oxides is almost completely avoided with LNG, and the nitrogen oxide emissions are lower. This helps the air in the ports and the health of the passengers on board.

But: “Climate compatibility is essentially about CO2, regardless of the fuel used,” explains Dietrich Brockhagen from Atmosfair - an organization that offers compensation for the damage caused by CO2 emissions from a trip.

The catch: The CO2 emissions of an LNG cruise ship are only slightly reduced. Aida Cruises speaks of minus 20 percent compared to a marine diesel ship. Tui Cruises assumes 10 percent less emissions if you take into account the entire supply chain from production to use.

"Fossil LNG has little advantage in climate protection," admits Tui Cruises sustainability manager Lucienne Damm. “In terms of CO2 emissions, it is just a bridge technology.”

CO2 compensation for cruises

Those who travel today are almost always responsible for a certain amount of CO2 emissions. It mainly depends on the means of transport. The CO2 emissions can at least be compensated for. In return, you pay voluntary compensation. The money is used to finance climate protection measures. But you have to know how high the personal CO2 emissions are. There are computers on the Internet, for example from Atmosfair and Myclimate.

On cruises, however, calculating the individual CO2 footprint is not that easy - and Atmosfair no longer offers its calculator because the organization accuses the industry of not converting to CO2-free fuels quickly enough. The provider Myclimate continues to compensate for cruises.

53 euros for 2.4 tons of CO2

And this is how it works: The user provides information on the type and occupancy of the cabin, the size of the cruise ship and the duration of the trip. The calculator then spits out the amount of CO2 for the vacationer. Example: On a seven-day cruise on a ship with 2,000 to 3,000 passengers in a standard cabin, the individual guest is responsible for 1.5 tons of CO2. Cost: 33 euros.

If the ship only holds 500 to 1000 guests, according to the computer, it is already 2.4 tons. Compensation: 53 euros. And if you then travel in a suite, the value rises to 3 tons - makes 66 euros. The smaller the ship and the larger the cabin, the greater the share of the individual passenger in total CO2 emissions. For comparison: According to Myclimate, a flight from Frankfurt / Main to Gran Canaria and back in the economy class emits 1.1 tons of CO2.

The big catch is: The emissions calculator for cruises only takes sea travel into account. If a vacationer flies to the port, these emissions are even higher. According to Myclimate, there is an additional 2.4 tons of CO2 on a return flight from Frankfurt to Barbados.

Comparisons are difficult

If you compare the cruise with a beach holiday in Mallorca, there is another difficulty: "A cruise is not just a mode of transport like an airplane," says Thomas Tibroni, Managing Director of Meravando. The portal takes over the CO2 compensation for the vacationers and pays this out of the commissions that the company receives for the bookings from the shipping companies.

"On a cruise, the ship is also a floating hotel with gastronomy," says Tibroni. When traveling on land you have to include the hotel, the activities on site and, for example, the rental car in addition to traveling by plane. His conclusion: "Apples are compared to pears." But Tibroni also says: "If I fly to the ship by plane, the environmental balance is worse than a normal beach holiday with arrival by plane."

Meravando works with Myclimate. However, Tibroni admits that the computer is not yet sophisticated. Important factors - such as the age of the respective ship - are not taken into account.

Hardly anyone pays for the climate

But if you want, you can compensate for the CO2 emissions of your cruise on the basis of a reasonably usable quantity. Only: Hardly a vacationer does that.

In November 2019, MSC Cruises announced that it would compensate for all of its cruise ship's CO2 emissions by hand. However, the shipping company did not want to comment on details and partners on request.

As long as the cruise is not climate neutral, climate protectionists see compensation as only an emergency solution. But how realistic is it that vacationers will soon be on “clean” ships?

That would only be possible if the ships refueled with natural gas instead of fossil fuel. But when that will be so far is currently not foreseeable.

Source: zeit

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