Virgin Voyages has revealed ambitions for Scarlet Lady to become the first “carbon-neutral” cruise ship at sea by offsetting direct emissions.
Speaking during a press conference onboard Scarlet Lady in Dover, president and chief executive Tom McAlpin said: “We will be the first ship to be carbon neutral, and we want to make that change now, not in five years.”
Speaking to TTG later on, McAlpin said the line was particularly aware of its environmental footprint and had thought long and hard about ways to lessen its impact.
“Our brand purpose is to create an epic sea change for us, our partners, our crew. We can’t wait to be carbon neutral down the road – we need to do it now,” he said.
“The reality of any business is that you have a carbon footprint. And we are a ship, and we need things like fuel, but we said ‘how do we reduce the amount of energy we use for the design of the ship?’
“And that in itself has paid off – the ship is now one knot faster than we designed her for. That might not sound like a lot but that makes a big difference.
“We also have LED lighting throughout, he added. “And when you leave your cabins the curtain shuts automatically and the air con goes off.
McAlpin acknowledged there were challenges about the effectiveness of carbon offsets, but he said the company was “trying to do the right thing”.
He added the carbon offset programmes had been thoroughly researched and that the line was keen to use those that benefit the destinations its ship will sail to.
“So we’re looking at wind farms in the Dominican Republic, for instance,” he revealed.
Questioned as to why Virgin Voyages’ new ship doesn’t use LNG – currently thought to be one of the cleanest fuels for cruise lines – McAlpin said the fact it isn’t yet readily available prevented it from being an option. And he said the next three Virgin Voyages ships on order would all be identical and therefore also not able to run on LNG.
“If 100% of our fleet is reliant on LNG, it would significantly limit us in the ports that we visit. It’s different if you have a large fleet of ships – you can afford to have one or two sailing on LNG, but all of our ships have the same design and 20% of the cost of a ship is in its engineering, so we needed to keep the same design.”
Elsewhere, McAlpin suggested the UK could yet be a homeport destination for a future Virgin Voyages ship – although it’s unlikely to be in the immediate future.