Ponant Cruises boss lays out net-zero plan

Tourism chiefs convene at inaugural One Ocean summit to discuss how maritime travel can be made sustainable

Ponant Cruises is at the vanguard of industry efforts to decarbonise. Photo: Horacio Villalobos
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The boss of a leading cruise ship operator on Wednesday called on fellow private operators in the global tourism industry to compile and share information on their environmental footprints.

Herve Gastinal, chief executive of Ponant Cruises, issued the rallying cry at this week's One Ocean conference in Brest, France, where leaders from around the world are meeting to discuss issues pertaining to the blue economy.

In a workshop on sustainable tourism, industry chiefs discussed best practice and reaffirmed the importance of the ocean to the industry.

One delegate proclaimed that “without the ocean, the industry was pointless".

The sentiment brooked no disagreement from Mr Gastinal.

Ponant is in the vanguard of the cruise ship sector's efforts to reach net zero and runs a 13-strong flotilla on alternative fuels.

“There are different types of energy that powers them whether we're talking about sailing ships or marine-gas fuelled with low levels of sulphur, and also liquid nitrogen gas or hybrid models,” Mr Gastinal told the assembled delegates.

He stressed his keenness to share some of the results his company had gleaned from its alternative-fuelling strategy, with collaboration on data an “essential” and “tangible commitment for the future".

Mr Gastinal said it was vital these data should be audited by neutral third parties.

Maritime industry must work together

Collaboration is at the heart of Ponant's approach, and Mr Gastinal revealed his pride at the partnerships forged under his auspices.

The voluntary environmental shipping certification programme, Green Marine Europe, is one such initiative.

The inaugural labelling programme for companies committed to preserving the ocean, Ocean Approved, is another.

Mr Gastinal said the programme was making great progress as it worked towards complete carbon neutrality in the shipping sector by 2050.

He acknowledged that the majority of the industry's leaders will have retired by then but said he could make firm commitments for the next five to 10 years.

“We're a fairly recent fleet but high performance, and we are undertaking supplementary commitments to try to reduce C02 emissions to the tune of 30 per cent by 2030, taking 2019 as the reference point.”

Currently about 50 per cent to 60 per cent of our waste is recycled and we're aiming to drive that up to 100 per cent between now and 2025
Herve Gastinal, Ponant Crusies CEO

This stipulation is important as the last two years have seen big drops in emissions trans-industrially as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and disruption.

Ponant will also become a “controlled world where sulphur and nitrogen are concerned".

Mr Gastinal revealed it had already reduced nitrogen dioxide emissions by 80 per cent through its new generation of engines and more is to come.

“Currently about 50 per cent to 60 per cent of our waste is recycled and we're aiming to drive that up to 100 per cent between now and 2025,” he said.

Plastics annihilation

Mr Gastinal also revealed that single-use plastics would be removed from Ponant ships at some point this year.

The war on plastics is not a new one for the tourism industry and Ponant's goals are shared by luxury travel operator Club Med.

In 2018, the firm removed all disposable cups and cutlery from its venues and replaced them with reusable alternatives.

It joined the UN's Global Tourism Plastics Initiative in July 2020 due to the consonance of their objectives.

“I would encourage any company to remove the remaining plastic accessories in their rooms,” said Agnes Weil, Club Med director of sustainability and philanthropy.

“And, of course, to decrease by up to 50 per cent in three years the consumption of water from plastic bottles — and to address the question of plastic packaging.”

Ms Weil highlighted the importance of science in the future of tourism.

“We are proud to say that we support from the very beginning a French NGO and pioneer in the study of plastic pollution of the sea.”

Mr Gastinal was in accord as to the integral role of science and paid tribute to the latest ship in his fleet: a hybrid polar exploration vessel that was the first of its kind to reach the geographical North Pole.

“We've equipped it with high investments in scientific laboratories and teams on board … and a number of agreements have already been signed with a major French and international laboratories,” he said.

Updated: February 10, 2022, 8:00 AM