Cruising in the Corona Crisis: “A Good Opportunity to Address Overtourism”


The Corona mandatory break is over, German shipping companies are preparing their ships and crews for the restart in the next two to three weeks. In view of the situation, the Greens are urging the companies in the cruise industry to change course fundamentally. “Less and cleaner – that has to be the motto,” says a position paper available to the German Press Agency, which specialist politicians from the Greens in the Bundestag have published.
Claudia Muller, Markus Tressel and Stefan Schmidt, spokesmen for the maritime economy, tourism and municipal finance, denounce the unchecked growth over the years with ever larger ships, high environmental pollution, poor remuneration for staff and tax evasion into so-called offshore paradises.

The corona pandemic had made cruises impossible in the spring. After infection also occurred on ships, some countries closed their ports. A little later, the trips were completely stopped. In Germany, the shipping companies now want to resume business, initially with sea voyages without shore leave.

Cruise before restart

So will TUI Cruises start on July 24th from Hamburg for the first short cruise towards Norway. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises departs on July 31 from Hamburg towards the Danish South Pacific, and the cruise company based in Rostock Aida will be traveling from Hamburg in the North Sea on August 5th.

In their paper, the Greens politicians advocate a fresh start “with a sense of proportion and foresight”.

  • New propulsion technologies, the retrofitting of older ships and the supply of shore power in ports should noticeably reduce pollutant emissions.

  • Travel to particularly sensitive destinations such as Venice, Dubrovnik or the polar regions should be limited.

  • The number of passengers per ship is to be limited to a maximum of 5000 worldwide, and up to 500 for arctic and similar areas worthy of protection. A ship is currently being built in Wismar for an Asian client, which is to offer space for 9000 travelers.

  • Working conditions and wages for ship personnel are to be improved through new, internationally binding standards.

  • The “pushing the boundaries of tax savings models”, for example with the headquarters of large cruise companies in Panama, Liberia or Bermuda, is to be consistently curbed at the international level.

  • Technical innovations in the shipbuilding industry are to be subsidized by the state, but the grants are to be linked to sustainability conditions.

In order for cruise shipping to have a future after the Covid 19 pandemic, it needs acceptance in society, the authors write. As the first steps in the wake of the corona pandemic, they expect consistent compliance with applicable hygiene and health standards, a reduction in the number of passengers, interval checks for infections on board and the creation of possible quarantine areas.

The industry has already laid down clear rules for the resumption of cruise operations and, according to the umbrella organization Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), has developed comprehensive prevention and hygiene measures. “Safety and health for guests and crew are top priorities for CLIA member shipping companies,” says Germany director Helge Grammerstorf, according to a message.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises announced that the restart would be very controlled. “We even go beyond the official regulations,” said Karl J. Pojer, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which operates relatively small ships.

The industry has already responded to ongoing criticism from environmentalists. Shipowners say they now use less environmentally harmful drives for newbuildings. For example, Aida equipped the first ships with engines for liquefied natural gas. In addition, shore power is available in more and more ports, so that the ship’s diesel no longer has to run on board for the power supply when it is idle.

“Too high a social and ecological price”

This is not enough for the Greens: “At the start of the season, I expect cruise shipping to continuously implement more sustainability and not just announce changes again,” clarified Claudia Muller, a member of the Bundestag, as co-initiator of the catalog of demands.

The industry must use the crisis and reposition itself. “Frequent pollution of the air and the sea, exploitation of employees and the shifting of profits to tax havens were anything but sustainable,” she complains. Acceptance can only be regained with fair working conditions, clean ship propulsion systems and economic transparency.

“In the past, too high a social and ecological price was paid for the steep growth of the cruise industry,” criticized Stefan Schmidt from Bavaria. “Now would be a good opportunity to tackle the problem of overtourism,” said Markus Tressel from Saarland.

According to industry reports, the number of German cruise passengers rose to over three million for the first time last year. The associations DRV, Clia and IG River Cruises counted a total of 3.1 million guests.

Around 2.5 million guests booked ocean cruises (previous year: 2.2 million), around 540,000 river trips (2018: 496,000). The organizers expect a massive drop in the number of guests and sales for the current year.
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