Does Carnival's Pollution Tech Signal Big Changes for the Cruise Industry?

By Bruce Watson
Jan 20, 2014 1:10 PM ET

This article originally appeared on The Guardian. 

When it comes to environmental sustainability, few industries face a more fundamental challenge than cruise ships. Cruising, after all, is an exercise in large numbers and grand expenditures. For example, a cruise on a Dream Class Carnival ship involves loading up to 3,646 passengers and 1,367 crew members onto a 1,004ft ship that weighs more than 128,000 gross tons. The cruise then takes them around the Caribbean, feeding them, laundering their clothes and pampering them. The environmental impact is similarly stunning: in 2011, Carnival consumed 25m metric tonnes of water and 3,394,214 metric tonnes of fuel, while producing 145,480 metric tonnes of sulfur dioxide and 11m tonnes of greenhouse gasses.

Yet, for all the seemingly inherent wastefulness of the cruise industry, many cruise lines are making a concerted effort to improve their waste streams, cut down on their fuel consumption and generally reduce their impact on the earth. Some of these changes have been the result of laws, others consumer pressure, but the end effect is the same: an industry that is working to improve its environmental footprint, even as some activists argue it isn't doing enough.

Recently, the largest cruise company in the world, Carnival, docked in the spotlight when it received the New Economy's Clean Tech Award for Best Marine Solutions Company. The award recognized Carnival's decision to install a new exhaust filtration system on its North American ships, at an estimated cost of $180m.

The filtration system, which scrubs sulfur, nitrogen and particulate matter from exhaust, will enable the company to massively reduce its air pollution. This is a potentially industry-transforming development, and the manner in which it came about highlights both the promise and challenges facing the industry's move toward sustainability.

Click here to continue reading about Carnival on The Guardian.