ABTA Member Noble Caledonia offer many types of trips from expedition cruising, small ship cruising, cruises under sail and river cruising as well as offer journeys by private plane, private train and escorted worldwide tours. In 2013 they established the Noble Caledonia Charitable Trust (NCCT) with the vision to use the Noble Caledonia framework to improve economic, social and environmental conditions in the areas they work in and visit. As part of this, they have developed several initiatives to reduce the use of plastics on board their ships. The have also participated in a Global Microplastics Initiative to better understand waste pollution in the oceans as well as run dedicated beach cleans to extract plastic from the environment.
Noble Caledonia implemented policies to deal with plastic pollution on board their ships. Since 2015 many of their vessels offer free water dispensers to allow guests to re-fill on board rather than using single-use plastic bottles and more are being fitted with this equipment annually. By doing so they have reduced the annual usage of water bottles of 54,000 per vessel, saving storage space on board and saving costs associated with waste disposal. They have also started eliminating single-use plastics in 2017 by banning straws, plastic cutlery, toiletries miniatures on board many of their vessels. Their microplastic analyses indicates that all is not lost, and initiatives such as reducing plastic use along with cleaning beaches will go a long way to reduce microplastic pollution overall.
Beach clean ups
During cruises staff and guests can participate in beach clean-ups (sometimes planned but often spontaneous). In 2017 they organized rubbish cleaning activities in Svalbard, (Norway), Seychelles, and Ducie Island in the Pacific Ocean. This year beaches in Scotland and Japan have been cleaned with more planned for later in 2018. They also sponsor students from Queen’s College, Oxford to clear the plastic Aldabra Atol in the Seychelles, analyse and identify where the waste has come from and reach out to primary and secondary schools to engage and inspire young people to learn about Aldabra and minimise their use of plastic.
Noble Caledonia aims to fight even more against plastic pollution in the coming years by introducing micro-fibre capture system, offering sustainable seafood and more.
Pam Le Noury, Head of Expedition Field Operations explains the ‘water bottles challenge’
Water bottles challenge
Back in 2012 the field staff started noticing how wasteful our single use plastic water bottle policy was. We used to have bottled water in every cabin and available at the gangway for guests to take on every tour. Many would take one and just take a few sips and leave them behind and take another for the next tour, etc. But bottled water was considered the quality standard. Tap water, especially ship’s tap water was not considered acceptable to drink (although it passed the safety tests people didn’t like the taste or the idea). But we were going through tens of thousands of bottles which needed to be transported to the ship all over the world, stored, then the bottles as garbage stored, then pay for offloading all this extra garbage – and many places we visit would not have had recycling.
We were launching our second small ship so the proposal of a water refill station was raised. The hotel department at that time was engrossed in getting this vessel through the strict USA coast guard inspections, so much extra ‘health and safety’ had to be installed and the suggestion of a water refill station at that moment was rebuffed. We would lose sanitation points off our high standard if someone could sip on their bottle and that section of the bottle could then touch the dispenser. It was not going to happen. We then found a unit (Elkay) that would pour the water when it sensed a bottle below (ie: no contact) – so we got it installed!
The next challenge was the bottle. Re-fillable steel canisters were just starting to be given to clients among some environmentally friendly travel companies. They were quite costly, and the supply would be tricky since our ships move all over the world and have few ‘regular ports’ so we’d be posting these bottles all over the show and storing a huge amount of bottles for months. We wanted to find something that would alleviate storage constraints on board and transportation costs. Around that time a collapsible bottle that had featured on the show Dragon’s Den was being launched and seemed like they could be perfect. We did a trial on board, feedback was good and we invested in thousands of these re-usable collapsible plastic bottles to give to people on board. But after a few months we started to get feedback they were too fiddly to open, not robust, they leaked in people’s bags occasionally and the built-in straw was a point of failure.
Then our head of HR, Sally McColgan, suggested we have really good steel canisters but they remain with the vessel. At first it seemed like an unhygienic idea but then we thought about the forks, cups, sheets, towels and figured its all the same. So we found a simple steel bottle, no silicone bits, totally smooth at the top, easy to clean, robust and we purchased 3 rotations for each vessel. Success! The canisters are available for use during the voyage, people take them ashore every day on hikes and tours, they are robust and years down the line they are still looking very good! We expected some shrinkage but in fact have had very little (there is a small note in the cabin explaining where they can buy one and if they take this one home it will be charged to their cabins – same as night robes and things!).
So it was about 4 years from when the water policy was raised to when we had completely integrated the steel bottles and refill station into our main ships. The story continues as we seek a suitable carafe for cabins, refill stations on chartered vessels, tour operators to not supply water bottles but rather a refill option and so on!