What developments have taken place at MedCruise since the start of the year?

One of the most important developments this year has been an increased engagement and partnership with the European Union (EU) on various levels.

In particular in the consortia that we are partners of, such as the BlueMissionMed project. I have also recently been appointed to the EU Healthy Sailing Advisory Board.

Another point to mention is an increasing drive to attract sponsorship to the Association. In the past we have relied solely on membership fees from port members and associate members, to finance the activities of the Association.

One other development, which has a very personal connection for me, has been the effects of the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. I delivered a thank you message to the industry for all the messages of support that we received. In particular from some of the cruise lines and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Carol Cabezas from Azamara cruises for her particularly personal thanks.

Our charity of choice continues to be Mercy ships. This incredible initiative, which we are happy to support, plays an important role in bringing life changing treatment to many people, particularly in Africa. Earlier this year, our Secretary General, along with a member of the Secretariat, visited the latest purpose-built ship that the organisation has acquired.

We continue our #portstogether spirit and initiative and other activities include regular Morning Coffee sessions or working groups, where we discuss issues affecting the industry online. We also continue with our training programme in the form of our Professional Development Courses. One of these courses focusing on sustainability was successfully held last year in Türkiye and we are planning another two for this year.

What was MedCruise’s involvement in the EU BlueMissionMed project?

BlueMissionMed is a Consortium that MedCruise is a partner of and is part of the EU’s Mission to Restore Oceans and Waters. As quoted on their website, BlueMissionMed will Inspire, Inform, Assess, Mobilise, Connect and Empower all the actors that can Take a Role in preventing and eliminating pollution in the Mediterranean sea and waters. I urge you to visit the website at https://bluemissionmed.eu/  and their social media platforms to actively follow up the workings of this great initiative.

One of the most important aspects of this partnership is underlying the Association’s commitment to sustainability. However, it has also provided a great networking opportunity and the ability to demonstrate to the EU the great work that the Association does. I have a sense that the EU was not as aware as it should’ve been of the workings of the MedCruise and the reaction that we have had from the representatives of the EU commission and indeed other bodies at these events has been very encouraging.

Many of these entities have taken a keen interest in the proactive stance that the Association takes in the industry and in particular on sustainability. From now on, MedCruise has a voice, a strong and clear one at the EU level.

What initiatives are you working on or supporting?

We continue therefore to participate in several EU consortia specifically related to sustainability and also health education, taking into consideration lessons learnt from the pandemic.

We have started several other initiatives, one of them being a crew friendly ports initiative. We often forget the importance that the crew on board ships play in terms of providing not only services to the industry but the economic impact they have at our ports. We have therefore come up with a banner that can be displayed at different ports to show that facilities or incentives are provided for crew members.

We are also about to embark on cooperation with the Save Soil foundation. This is part of the Conscious Planet initiative and its Save Soil movement. The Save Soil movement aims to address the soil crisis by bringing together 3.5 billion people from around the world (60% of the world’s voting population) to stand up for Soil Health, and support leaders of all nations to institute national policies toward increasing the organic content in cultivable Soil.

Conscious Planet is an effort to raise human consciousness and bring a sense of inclusiveness such that multifarious activities of our societies move into a conscious mode. More information can be found at this website, https://consciousplanet.org/about-us

We are also actively working with the GSTC, The Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

The important thing to note about many of these organisations, is that they see MedCruise as a great platform from which to reach many countries and to enable us to disseminate information about the wonderful work they do.

How far has the Mediterranean region come in making cruising more sustainable?

One of the most important aspects to point out in relation to the subject and the work of the Association, is how we take a more holistic approach to sustainability. In other words, we attach great importance to talking about the technical aspects, such as providing a map to show which ports provide LNG fuels and shortly a map to show what ports provide onshore power supplies. However, we also take a great interest in sustainability from a social aspect. For example, our initiative to plant trees around certain events such as our General Assemblies. It was interesting recently at the BlueMissionMed event that I attended to hear Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries on a video call from the Ukraine. He has been instrumental in an EU initiative called Trees for Life, so it seems we are on the same page in that respect.

Your next General Assembly will take place in May… What are the key themes you hope to share during the event?

We are confident that the next General Assembly will be as successful of the last one, where there was a record number of cruise line executives attending and a record number of members, proving again that our General Assemblies are some of the leading events in the cruise industry. At this event, we will certainly be talking about some of the subjects I’ve mentioned, such as our holistic approach on sustainability and our crew friendly initiative. We would like to thank the role that ship crews play in the industry and particularly the role they played during the pandemic. I will also be very thrilled to share with our members the increase in EU dialogue that we have engaged in and the great interest that the EU and other bodies are taking in the work of the Association. Our General Assembly will also include the first meeting of the EU Healthy Sailing Advisory Board.