Environmental Sustainability

Cruise lines are at the forefront in developing responsible environmental practices, leading by example for the world’s shipping industry.

CLIA ocean-going cruise lines are pursuing net-zero carbon cruising by 2050 across the global fleet, and are on track to reduce the rate of carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.

Innovating for a net-zero carbon future

The cruise industry is on its way to become one of the most sustainable forms of tourism. Modern day cruise ships are powerhouses of innovation brimming with cutting-edge technologies. The entire shipping industry benefits from the early adoption by cruise lines of new technologies that did not exist five to ten years ago.  Examples include use of LNG as fuel and the introduction of the first LNG-propelled cruise ship, exhaust gas cleaning systems, advanced wastewater purification systems, air lubrication systems and special paint coatings to reduce fuel consumption, energy-efficient engines, the use of shore-side power, and much more.

Investment in Research and Development (R&D), time, and collaboration is necessary for new environmental technologies to be scaled up effectively and safely.  Recognizing the importance of collaboration, the cruise industry has joined other maritime associations in sponsoring a proposal for the establishment of the world’s first collaborative shipping R&D Board, which aims to generate around $5 billion over a ten-year period to pursue new environmental solutions.

The cruise industry recognizes that a robust research and development effort devoted to the near-term identification and production of new fuels, propulsion systems and related technologies is necessary to achieve zero carbon emissions in the global maritime fleet.  This is not only critical to achieving the vision and specific objectives of IMO's GHG Strategy, but as part of a low carbon future.

Fueling the future

The immediate future includes the introduction of alternate fuels in support of the
IMO goal to achieve zero emissions.

Cruise lines are investing billions in new vessels with improved environmental performance and are actively engaged in efforts to reduce actual carbon reduction at sea and at ports by investing in new ships, new technologies, and alternative fuels. Alternative fuels currently being explored include a range of options such as biofuels, synthetic fuels, ammonia and methanol. Other efforts underway include exploring hybrid solutions, including new generations of fuel cell technology to cut carbon emissions further, and lithium-ion battery storage systems.

We know from our many partners that today’s marine engines can be adapted to accommodate new fuels that will become available at scale in the future. Storage, handling, and fuel supply can be more complicated given the properties of new fuels, but the challenges are not insurmountable, especially for vessels built with future conversions in mind. Ultimately, a flexible fuel strategy can be an excellent base to transition to ever more environmentally friendly fuels as they emerge.

  • Use of alternative sustainable fuels and battery/hybrid power are being explored.

  • Advanced wastewater purification systems that use advanced tertiary-level treatment to generate effluent discharges that are often equivalent to the best shoreside treatment plants and whose use reaches well beyond international requirements.
  • LNG, the cleanest marine fuel available at scale today, has become a reality for our industry—with four ships currently in service and 25 on order to be delivered in the near future. While we view LNG as a bridge to the future, rather than the ultimate solution, the use of LNG as a fuel for passenger ships is providing immediate benefits, including reductions of sulfur emissions to zero, particulate emissions by 98%, NOx emissions by 85%, and CO2 emissions by 25%. The use of LNG now also paves the way for new fuels of the future, such as synthetic LNG. Bio and synthetic LNG can be used initially as drop-in fuels alongside conventional LNG and later, as supply increases, potentially replace it entirely. In addition, engines and fuel supply systems designed for LNG today require little to no modifications to use bio or synthetic LNG when available at scale.

Energy efficiency is a natural climate solution

Energy efficiency is a critical element in developing future climate solutions.  There are many examples of energy efficiency onboard cruise ships, including:

  • Air lubrication systems for ship hulls to reduce drag and fuel consumption for greater efficiency

  • Energy-efficient engines that consume less fuel and reduce emissions.

  • Shore-side power capability that allows ships to “plug in” when available at ports of call for overall emission reduction

  • Special paint coatings for ship hulls that reduce fuel consumption by up to 5%
  • Installation of tinted windows, higher efficiency appliances and HVAC systems and windows that capture and recycle heat

  • Optimized itineraries affecting speed, routes and distances traveled to significantly reduce fuel consumption

  • LED lighting - lasts 25 times longer and uses 80% less energy

Recycling at sea

Environmental sustainability is about more than decarbonization.

The extent of recycling on ships is often superior to that of many of the cities that the ships visit.   Some ships can repurpose 100% of waste generated aboard – removing, reusing, recycling, and converting waste to energy.  The extent of recycling onboard is superior to that of many cities that the ships visit, and an increasing number of cruise lines have banned single-use plastics. Cruise lines recycle 80,000 tons of paper, plastic, aluminum and glass each year.

Cruise lines carefully follow waste management and recycling practices to prevent waste in oceans.   


With the advice and consent of its members, CLIA adopted an Environmental Policy, the implementation of which, as a condition of membership, is verified annually by member cruise line CEOs. The policy is incorporated into each ship’s Safety Management System (SMS) and, accordingly, is subject to third-party and internal auditing.

Each cruise ship receives dozens of inspections each year from the ports they visit, countries where they are registered and other independent agencies — including checks of equipment and practices for waste management, emission reduction and water treatment. The cruise industry participates in International Maritime Organization (IMO) working groups and committees to develop global regulations to protect the environment.

View Environmental Factsheet