The Port of Seattle will work with major cruise lines and Vancouver, B.C., and Juneau to develop the world’s first cruise-focused “green corridor” from Seattle to Alaska. The effort officially launched Tuesday, with the announcement of a study exploring the measure’s feasibility.
If your first reaction is skepticism, you are not alone. The region is no stranger to the dreaded foot-dragging that sometimes comes with the back burner approach of a feasibility study.
However, there is cause for optimism as all involved say they are committed to moving quickly and ensuring this is only the first step in improving the environmental sustainability of cruises and mitigating their impact on climate change.
Those actions cannot come soon enough. It is critical that port officials and their industry partners hold strong to their professed commitment.
A green corridor would support zero greenhouse-gas-emission ships through technological and infrastructure development, such as electric shore power when ships are in port and zero-emission fuels. Nearly 300 ships leave Seattle for Alaska in a six-month cruise season, officials said. In total, Alaska hosts more than 600 cruise sailings per year.
The environmental damage of cruises is well-documented, but that has not kept vacationers from setting sail. Even as the pandemic remains a source of concern, the cruise industry has seen an impressive bounce back, with companies such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line reporting record-breaking bookings.
Although the cruise industry is reaping the rewards of pent-up demand, it recognizes that business approaches must adapt, said Stephanie Jones Stebbins, the Port of Seattle’s managing director for maritime.
The Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s largest trade group, recently set a goal of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, bringing it in line with the port’s own mission to operate a zero-emission waterfront by then.
“We have an opportunity to say, ‘OK, we have shared goals, let’s get on this and kind of put your money where your mouth is, and let’s all work together,” Jones Stebbins said.
Green corridor partners include Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Royal Caribbean Group, the city and borough of Juneau, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the Global Maritime Forum, Blue Sky Maritime Coalition and Washington Maritime Blue.
The Port of Seattle’s guiding principle of working collaboratively is a smart strategy. While there is a place for direct control and stringent standards, Seattle can only do so much by itself, said Steve Metruck, the port’s executive director.
“How does the Port of Seattle control the operation of a ship in the open ocean, or in the waters of Alaska or the waters of Canada?” he asked. “But if we all are on the same page, working with our industry partners, we can work toward that; we can achieve that.”
Establishing a green corridor would truly be an achievement worth celebrating. That feasibility study is a key first step.