AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH LINDEN COPPELL, DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABILITY, MSC CRUISES
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at MSC Cruises?
I have worked in the field of sustainability for more than 25 years. I started as a consultant and then I joined Cathay Pacific Airways in Hong Kong before moving to Etihad Airways where I worked for 10 years in Abu Dhabi.
As Director of Sustainability, my role is to ensure that MSC Cruises grows in a sustainable way and I have to, of course, work in close collaboration with a range of external partners, such as the International Maritime Organization, CLIA, World Travel and Tourism Council and with the many industry partners we collaborate with on projects and initiatives. I’m part of the Company’s Sustainable Advisory Board which is led by our Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, which is responsible for approving actions to meet the sustainability goals of the business and ensuring that sustainability is embedded across the entire organisation.
Can you try to summarise MSC Cruises overarching vision for sustainability? What does the Company hope to achieve?
Our aim is to be considered a responsible and viable business into the future, across all aspects of operations and activities, whether that it ensuring the welfare of our employees, driving compliance and responsibility through our supply chain or ensuring we provide tangible economic and social benefits to the communities we visit or engage with.
Given the nature of our industry, when people talk about sustainability, focus tends to be on environmental issues and concerns. And within this, our current dependance on fossil fuels for powering our ships means that decarbonisation is a major focus. At MSC Cruises, our goal is to achieve zero emissions across all of our operations both at sea and ashore. Naturally, we cannot achieve our goals without the collaboration of other innovative players in the industry and we are fully committed to enabling and utilising new solutions of environmental technology to achieve our goal.
How does your new build programme demonstrate MSC Cruises’ commitment to the environment?
Ultimately, we can only use the technology that is commercially available. It is important for us that we take onboard the very latest technology because our ships will likely be in operation for many decades. Our newest ships will be operating past 2050 and designing ships now that are fit for purpose for the next 40 years is essential. We strive to continuously improve our fleet’s environmental performance and for every new ship we build, we seek future technologies that will help to minimise our environmental impact.
What environmental technologies will be equipped on board MSC Virtuosa and MSC Seashore, your two new ships for 2021, to reduce emissions? Why did MSC Cruises choose hybrid type exhaust gas cleaning systems? Can you explain what this does and why it’s important and how it works?
The Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems – EGCS - ensure the removal of sulphur from exhaust gases before emitting to the atmosphere. The hybrid systems installed by MSC Cruises allow the wash water from the EGCS to be collected in sensitive areas, such as ports, and offloaded rather than discharging directly at sea.
What does the selective catalytic reduction system do and why is this an important technology?
A selective catalytic reduction system (SCR) removes nitrogen oxides from the exhaust gases by passing it thought a metallic catalyst. The nitrogen oxide molecules react with the metal and converted into nitrogen and water, both harmless compounds.
How do you plan to reach and exceed the cruise industry’s standards in terms of wastewater treatment?
Our two new ships in 2021 - MSC Virtuosa and MSC Seashore – both have Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems that have been designed in line with the International Maritime Organization’s MEPC 227(64) Resolution, with purification standards that are higher than most wastewater treatment facilities ashore.
Ballast water treatment systems ensure that any ballast water that is discharged is free from potentially invasive species.
Can you explain your waste management process on the ship?
All our ships are equipped with comprehensive solid waste management and recycling facilities. All organic waste, as well as recyclable disposable items including plastics, metals, paper and glass, are collected and separated by specially trained waste handling crew members. Waste is compacted, separated or incinerated, and residual waste is carefully delivered to dedicated port facilities.
Training our crew, not only to handle waste, but to understand the importance of waste management, is central to what we do. Our crew members receive ongoing training to ensure they remain abreast of the highest standards and can inform our guests about the need to separate and recycle.
The Environmental Compliance Officer on every ship is responsible for ensuring waste management protocols are followed.
What is done with the ships to increase the energy efficiency? Why is increasing energy efficiency important for your sustainability efforts?
Energy efficiency is a critical factor in the design of our ships. All our newbuilds incorporate a wide range of energy efficient equipment to help reduce drag and optimise ship and hotel operations.
We work closely with shipbuilders so that all our new vessels are fitted with remote energy monitoring and analysis systems which allows real-time shoreside support to optimise operational efficiency onboard.
On board the ship itself we have a range of measures that improve energy efficiency. These include smart ventilation and advanced air conditioning systems with automated energy recovery loops that redistribute heat and cold to reduce demand. The ships use LED lighting controlled by smart management systems that further enhances the energy saving profile.
How are new ships designed to protect marine life while sailing?
MSC Virtuosa and its sister ship MSC Grandiosa are equipped with underwater radiated noise management systems that minimise acoustic sound and vibration. This ensures a high level of comfort for passengers and crew and reduces potential impact on the behaviour of marine mammals.
MSC World Europa will be MSC Cruises first LNG ship. What can you say about the newbuild from an environmental perspective?
MSC World Europa, our first ship to be powered by liquified natural gas (LNG), will be delivered in 2022 and is being built by the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint Nazaire, the first LNG cruise ship to be built in France.
LNG is the cleanest fuel currently available on the market and we will see significant environmental improvements with carbon emissions reduced by up to 20 per cent.
MSC World Europa will be something special because it will be our first ship to be powered by LNG. We are also looking into how other fuel technologies could be employed in the future, such as solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology.
This is an important project with the Chantiers de l’Atlantique.
The fuel on a cruise ship has to generate power to propel the vessel through the water and also provide the heat and electricity for the hotel operations.
The oxide test cells will be trialled to create energy and generate power – heat and electricity – to support the hotel load initially in a limited way, with a view to scaling up in the future.
We’re very excited about where this might lead, not just at MSC Cruises but for the industry at large because this could greatly increase energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint.
What steps are you taking to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Energy efficiency plays a significant part in our determined efforts towards decarbonisation and we take a two-pronged approach to this crucial aspect of shipping. One is looking at the existing fleet and where we can possibly seek improvements in reducing carbon emissions and secondly is to look ahead at our ships for the future - what I like to call “future proofing” – to make the most environmentally conscious hardware ready to join our fleet.
Our maritime technical team of experts is constantly looking at ways to improve energy efficiency, working in tandem with our shipyards, both the Chantiers de I’Atlantique in France and Fincantieri in Italy.
We collect a huge amount of data from the operational performances of our ships at sea then take it ashore to compare with a computer aided designed digital ship that has, of course, a perfect design capability.
The information enables us to feedback in real time to the crew at sea where they can make adjustments to the complex ship operations; heating and ventilation systems being one good example of a system that needs constant tweaking to ensure maximum comfort of our guests in the most effective way
These are usually small incremental changes, but we have a number of opportunities given the mass of technology onboard which can all aggregate into something substantial and substantive when the take the fleet as a whole.
For a brand-new vessel such as MSC Virtuosa, the information from her sister ship MSC Grandiosa has enabled many minor modifications to the energy systems to improve efficiency.
What about the future?
To achieve zero emissions, we and the rest of the cruise industry must have ships propelled by fuels that reduce emissions substantially compared to those from traditional fossil fuels.
We’ve partnered with a range of industry-leading technological suppliers to closely look at low-carbon shipping by combining progressive energy technologies and innovative ship design.
The research project led by the University of Vaasa in Finland is called ‘The CHEK Consortium’ and we’ll work together in the next three years looking at a variety of carbon reducing technologies including the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel.
Additionally, we continue to track progress in the advancement and commercialisation of other low carbon marine fuel options including bio-LNG, ammonia and methanol, and work in partnership to test their technical capabilities.
Where are you with the single-use plastics pledge you announced in 2018?
We conducted a thorough and detailed inventory of every single plastic item on board, whether it’s the tiny sleeve on a toothpick to the plastic basket for liquid detergent, to determine what could be replaced.
For more than 200 most prolific items, we either eliminated them completely, substantially, or replaced them with an alternative.
For example, we stopped using drinking straws unless it was specifically asked for and these were replaced with biodegradable material.
With the sign “Straw available only upon request”, we were able to reduce 19 million plastic straws to nine million compostable straws.
Onboard laundry detergent is another great example where we worked with the supplier to reduce plastic significantly, now delivered in solid block form with a minimal plastic cover compared to solid plastic buckets of liquid detergent that were previously used.
When we resumed our operations in summer 2020 following the global industry’s shutdown in March, we faced a new challenge as understandably plastic was necessary for personal protective equipment as well as medical testing equipment.
We had to out of necessity reintroduce some food-related single used packaging for food and meals where there was no alternative but we see this is as a temporary measure and we will remove such items or seek plastic free alternatives when conditions allow.