For almost a decade now, TUI Cruises has been applying innovation and strict specifications to make its liners more sustainable. Lucienne Damm, Senior Environmental Manager, is working with her team on a wide variety of measures to help TUI Cruises set ever higher benchmarks in environment and climate protection. These measures range from new types of waste gas filtration via efficient energy and climate systems to projects for cutting waste and handling leftover food.

A pilot project by TUI Cruises, United Against Waste and the TUI Care Foundation cut food waste across the fleet by 17 per cent.

When people take a cruise, they enjoy being pampered in many ways, not least by culinary delights. Thousands of tasty dishes are placed before them every day. Today Lucienne Damm is studying the buffet in the Anckelmannsplatz Restaurant – from the plentiful starters to the multiple main courses and on to the sweet desserts. Unlike the holidaymakers around her, however, she is not relaxing. The TUI Cruises Environmental Manager is on board for professional reasons. Together with one of the chefs, the 37-year-old walks down the tables metre by metre, taking note of the quantities on the platters and the uneaten leftovers being sent back to the kitchen. Afterwards the staff weigh the food waste and talk to Lucienne Damm about even better ways to tackle the problem.

The hard work that she and her team have invested in on-board catering has paid off. “Our goal was to reduce the amount of food being wasted, and to do that we had monitor the flows carefully.” TUI Cruises carried out this project along with the association United Against Waste and the TUI Care Foundation, and the outcome was a 17-per-cent reduction across the fleet. Most leftovers are due to overproduction, which is typical in the catering trade. As a graduate in political science who specialised in environment issues when studying at the Freie Universität in Berlin, Lucienne Damm is about to publish the findings together with Futouris, an alliance of tourism companies campaigning for sustainability. “We have compiled our methods and insights into a kind of guideline for the sector,” says the Senior Environmental Manager, who works closely with the environment officers on the ships and with other units on shore and at sea.

Lucienne Damm, Senior Environmental Manager, TUI Cruises

Passionate about her job, she uses food to illustrate how the company is becoming more sustainable in every field. “Cruise liners are in the public eye, obviously. That’s another reason why it’s important to show how much we are doing.” The feedback from passengers has so far been positive, she says. Even so, the idea of optimising food is a balancing act. “Our passengers want variety in the buffet, and we want them to enjoy a carefree voyage with a good conscience,” insists Lucienne Damm, who has been working for TUI Cruises since 2011 after helping to define shipping policies at the environment organisation NABU. “Besides, our hygiene regulations are stricter than on shore. We have to throw everything away afterwards, even if it never got beyond the buffet display.”

Waste is a constant theme for Lucienne Damm in all its forms. Apart from a broad list of measures to cut out plastics (see interview), she tries to define the ideal response to every type of waste. “It is always about how we can avoid generating waste, and if there is no other option, how to reduce and re-use it as efficiently as possible.” Sometimes, for example, it can be done by purchasing food in bigger packaging or in re-usable containers, and in some cases with no packaging at all. Valuable materials such as aluminium and glass are collected. Many types of waste are incinerated on board as there is so little storage space. “Now we are working on using the thermal energy from incineration like the waste heat from the engines – although of course on board it’s a little trickier for safety reasons.”

»Our most important critics are among us all the time: our holidaymakers.«

Lucienne Damm, Senior Environmental Manager, TUI Cruises

Like a car, a ship can save energy by adapting to wind and weather conditions and adjusting course.

Energy in general is a major issue for the TUI Cruises manager. Cruise vessels must have a constant supply of power. Downtime is out of the question, be it for the hotel operations, safety systems or refrigerating food. Usually, when out at sea, the ship’s engines provide the energy. In port the auxiliary engines are run. For some years there has been talk of an onshore power supply, which would be much more sustainable in the long term. “In public debate we are often asked why we didn’t introduce it long ago. Plug in and bingo!” It’s a striking image, but there is a caveat: “It isn’t that simple. You can’t just flick a switch. The procedure takes some time until the huge connection from shore to ship delivers a reliable supply of energy.” Another challenge: Most ports don’t even have an onshore power supply. The expansion is only just getting underway. Nevertheless, TUI Cruises will be retrofitting its cruise liners Mein Schiff 4 and 5 in 2020. This will enable the two vessels to make use of onshore power at a number of ports in Northern Europe. By 2023 the entire Mein Schiff fleet will be equipped with an OPS connection.

Waste gas treatment can cut emissions considerably on all newbuilds.

To maximise energy efficiency at sea, TUI Cruises has fitted the new liners with smart technology. “We have software to monitor all the on-board systems round the clock and while we are about it we check where we can reduce power consumption even more.” Over the last few years TUI Cruises has recorded hundreds of thousands of data at 19,000 different test points, from individual lamps and air conditioners in the cabins to the central kitchen and the spa and sports facilities. “We identify peak consumption and can trigger countermeasures,” explains Lucienne Damm.

Apart from installing efficient lighting and ventilation equipment, small things often help. “Sometimes it’s a simple change in behaviour: Can a kitchen oven be switched off for a while if it isn’t needed right now?” Another promising area is navigation. “Rather like driving a car, we can steer a ship in ways that reduce fuel consumption by responding to wind and weather conditions or adjusting course,” says the environment manager. “At this point I can only stand by and watch, of course. Our captains and nautical engineers have the best knowhow, and in any case they operate as sustainably as they can.”

50,000 ships ply the ocean waves, being responsible for only 2 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Of all the ships, only 400 are cruise liners. The vast majority are merchant vessels. But most innovation comes from the cruise industry – with positive effects for the whole sector.

These are very wide-ranging measures, and sometimes they are expensive. For Lucienne Damm it is money well spent. The cruise business is growing, and this way it can – or rather should – set an example to the shipping sector as a whole. There are 50,000 ships plying the waves globally, and only about 400 of them are cruise vessels. The lion’s share is down to maritime trading. TUI Cruises had the first fleet, for example, where catalytic converters were fitted to treat waste gas. When Mein Schiff 2 entered service in 2019, the company was able to boast the youngest and most environment-friendly cruise fleet in the world. All the newbuilds have systems to treat waste gas that can cut sulphur emissions by up to 99 per cent, nitrous emissions by up to 75 per cent and soot particles by up to 60 per cent. “Besides, in 2015 we started looking at using liquid natural gas for propulsion, although for Mein Schiff 1 and 2 it was no longer feasible.” That has changed: the technology is being installed in the two newbuilds due for their maiden voyages in 2024 and 2026. Unlike marine diesel oil, liquid gas fuel generates no sulphurous emissions. “Carbon emissions are lower too, but not enough to eliminate the climate impact in shipping in the long term. So now we are looking at the potential for innovative carbon-neutral fuels.” 

Lucienne Damm believes that TUI Cruises is well equipped for this future. “With our fleet of currently seven vessels we can generate huge economies of scale whenever we initiate sustainable projects.“ She can observe progress by the day. Because she exercises a cross-cutting function, she has dealings with colleagues all over the company who are addressing sustainability. But she singles out one target group in particular: “Our most important critics are among us all the time: our holidaymakers. That is why we so often seek their views.” This includes on-board events such as Questions to the Captain and Chats with the Environment Officer. “It’s really fascinating to hear what our customers want to know and what strikes them as important,” says Lucienne Damm. “We learn an enormous amount from that and frequently note more little adjustments we can make.”