Monday 14 June 2010

Eco-friendly Cruising With Star Clippers

Star Clippers Flyer and Clipper
As cruise ships get bigger and their impact on the environment is increasingly under scrutiny, Star Clippers’ full-rigged, tall ships offer a cleaner, greener way to cruise.

Star Clippers has been incorporating eco-friendly systems and practices on its three tall ships for years. Most significant, of course, is the fact that the vessels’ major source of energy - wind propulsion - is both abundant and emission-free.

“At Star Clippers, we always try to maximise the amount of time we are under wind power,” says Captain Farhat Shamim, vice president of operations for Star Clippers. “Not only so that our guests can experience a true tall ship sailing experience, but because this also reduces the amount of fuel we consume. A cruise under sail is much easier on the environment.”

In the Caribbean, where the wind is most predictable, the ships operate under wind power up to 70 percent of the time, thus minimising use of the auxiliary engines, which also power the air-conditioning and provide electricity for the day-to-day operation of the ship.

When Star Clippers ships do consume fuel, it is a less-polluting grade. “All our vessels only use very pure, high-quality low-sulphur gas oil; for this we were awarded the International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate,” Shamim continues. “Star Flyer was the first ship in the world to receive this certificate. Later, Star Clipper and Royal Clipper received the same certification.”

When it comes to managing the waste products generated on board, Star Clippers has a straightforward policy. Reduce the amount of waste created; recycle as much as possible; and ensure proper disposal of the remaining waste. Crew training plays a vital part in reducing and recycling waste, while technology does the rest.

For example, only eco-friendly, biodegradable products are used for cleaning on board the three ships. Super-concentrated formulae that employ innovative packaging and dispensing methods are used to keep waste to a minimum.

Wastewater is contained in holding tanks while a vessel is in port or close to shore. After a stringent treatment process, this water is discharged when the vessel is outside national limits and special zones in accordance with international regulations. Extra measures have been taken for the ships sailing in truly fragile environments; Star Flyer, for example, has just completed a season in French Polynesia and this coming winter will sail the pristine waters off the coast of Costa Rica. A pilot project on Star Flyer for advanced wastewater treatment using a ‘membrane bioreactor’ system has been a success; the new system completely sanitises and removes all solids from wastewater before discharge.

Star Clippers is also taking steps to protect the environment when it comes to educating the guests. Dr Mariano Peruzzo, a highly qualified marine biologist, has been stationed on board Royal Clipper for more than a year now. He was employed by Mikael Krafft, Swedish owner and founder of Star Clippers, to live and work the ship, giving talks to the guests and educating them on the subject of marine conservation in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

But there’s more to the job than just delivering the daily slide shows. “Early morning, I start with whale watching on the bridge,” says Peruzzo. “Sometimes guests join me for a short visit, usually with the first strong coffee of the day. We have shore excursions every day and dives each afternoon, which I lead. We have lectures in the forward lounge every evening or late afternoon.

“On some days, I participate with the guests on the shore excursions, especially when they go somewhere with really interesting geological stuff, like Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands, or Mount Etna, collecting stones and plants.”

In March this year, more than 70 passengers aboard Royal Clipper joined Mariano for a beach cleanup in St Kitts. The passengers worked to improve turtle breeding grounds in North Friar’s Bay in preparation for the nesting season of the region’s endangered leatherback turtles.

The effort was initiated by Star Clippers and in collaboration with the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network and Kantours, St. Kitts. The passengers managed to collect and remove 652 pounds of garbage from the fragile turtle habitat and the event was such a success that similar activities are being planned for next winter.

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