Carnival Makes Bombshell Claim To Only Use Cleaner Fuel On Cruise Ships In Arctic

In precedent-setting first, for the cruise industry, company says it switched fuel two years ago — a move environmental groups have been pushing for across the shipping sector. In an article published in TradeWinds, Carnival Corporation has made a bombshell claim that it switched all of its cruise ships traveling to the Arctic from burning ultra-dirty heavy fuel oil to low-sulfur marine gasoil.

Since December 2016, international environmental organizations with the Clean Up Carnival coalition have been calling on the cruise giant to reduce its environmental and human health impacts by ending its use and carriage of heavy fuel oil.”If true, today’s announcement makes Carnival Corporation the first major cruise company to pledge this kind of commitment to protecting the Arctic. applauds this as an important step in the right direction, and a move that puts the shipping sector on the pathway to a truly heavy fuel oil-free Arctic. Now Carnival should take the next logical step to ensure that none of its ships traveling to the region are carrying heavy fuel oil onboard.” -Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner,

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However, when this change actually took place remains unclear. Carnival made contradictory statements to TradeWinds in October 2018 that it uses heavy fuel oil and exhaust gas scrubbers to power its cruise ships in the Arctic, while today’s announcement claims Carnival has been using marine gasoil to power its ships in the Arctic since late 2016. Due to the conflicting statements, the Clean Up Carnival coalition remains cautiously optimistic, but asks Carnival Corporation to release its data on ship fuel use beginning in 2016.

“In the interest of transparency, Carnival should release its fuel logs to show the world it has been, and will continue to be, a leader in getting heavy fuel oil out of this fragile Arctic ecosystem.” -Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner,

Carnival’s announcement likely applies only to ships traveling within the Arctic waters as defined by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Only nine Carnival-owned ships travel to IMO-defined Arctic waters, while 49 Carnival-owned ships travel north of the 50th parallel to the wider geographic Arctic, Subarctic, and Alaska.

“Switching to a cleaner fuel while still carrying heavy fuel oil onboard doesn’t address the concerns about the long-term impact of a spill of this thick, tar-like oil in this fragile region. Multiple Arctic countries, as well as Indigenous leaders and organizations, have called for an end to heavy fuel oil in this region. The only appropriate response that respects the will of the people who have called this place home for tens of thousands of years is to stop bringing heavy fuel oil to the Arctic altogether.” -Verner Wilson III, Senior Oceans Campaigner with Friends of the Earth U.S. and member of the Curyung Tribe

Carnival Corporation is the largest dues-paying member of the trade industry organization Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), and Carnival CEO Arnold Donald sits on CLIA’s board. The trade organization regularly participates in international policy negotiations at the IMO, where member states are working toward a global ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. With today’s announcement, the Clean Up Carnival coalition is asking CLIA to follow Carnival’s example and fully support that ban.

The Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of 18 nonprofit organizations calling for a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters because of the impact of spills and higher emissions of black carbon contributing to melting sea ice, also welcomed today’s news.

“With the IMO’s Arctic ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil on the horizon, and measures to reduce black carbon emissions from shipping currently under discussion at the IMO, Carnival’s decision to not use heavy fuel oil lays down a challenge to all Arctic shipping operators. Banning the world’s dirtiest fuel from Arctic shipping is the simplest and easiest way to reduce the risks of long-lasting, damaging oil spills, and will result in a significant reduction in emissions of black carbon, which exacerbates sea ice melt when it settles on snow and ice. Now it’s up to Arctic operators to meet Carnival’s challenge, by making the switch to cleaner fuels.” -Dr. Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance


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