MSC accused of ‘greenwashing’ with LNG cruise ship ad

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), one of the world’s largest providers of ocean cruises, has been accused of misleading advertising. The company claims its LNG-fueled ships are better against global warming than the ones on traditional shipping fuel. Still, environmentalists say that liquefied natural gas (LNG) also contributes significantly to the greenhouse effect.

On Monday, April 29th, three Dutch climate and environmental organizations that fight ‘greenwashing’ – Fossielvrij NL, Reclamejagers, and Advocates for the Future – filed an extensive complaint against MSC with the Advertising Code Committee (RCC).

‘Extremely polluting’

The three organizations say MSC misleads Dutch consumers by emphasizing the alleged sustainability of its cruise ships. In reality, the cruise trips promoted by MSC contribute significantly to global warming. The complaints are mainly against MSC’s claims that sailing on gas is sustainable.

The rapidly growing cruise industry is extremely polluting,” they say. “Cruises are one of the least sustainable ways to go on holiday. The enormous ships, which can accommodate and entertain thousands of passengers, require a lot of energy, mainly from fossil fuels. In addition, the ships disrupt marine life with their abundant noise and light.”

Self-regulating body

In recent years, polluting companies have increasingly been criticized for greenwashing. Earlier, oil giant Shell and airline KLM were reprimanded for misleading advertising. Now, NGOs are taking aim at the cruise industry’s alleged greenwashing.

The Advertising Code Committee, an industry self-regulating body, has become increasingly strict on sustainability claims in recent years. The RCC cannot impose fines but advises advertisers to withdraw advertisements that conflict with the advertising code.

‘Supporting evidence’

In response to climate groups’ complaints, a spokesperson for MSC said the company’s campaigns are designed “to showcase our progress toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions from maritime activities by 2050”. The company rejects the allegations and states it can defend its position “rigorously” with “supporting evidence”.

It may take another five or six months before a hearing and ruling follows, and the question remains how effective such a ruling is. Or perhaps there should simply be a ban on green advertising by polluting companies?

Among Europe’s top polluters

The Swiss-Italian MSC Cruises is the fourth largest cruise line in the world after Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line. MSC Cruises will carry an estimated 2.5 million passengers this year.

Although MSC claims its fleet is young, modern, and environmentally friendly, the company has climbed to sixth place in the ranking of Europe’s top CO2 polluters according to Transport & Environment (T&E).

However, in 2021, the company announced it would study the feasibility of an oceangoing cruise ship on hydrogen as a zero-emission alternative, together with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri and Italian gas group Snam.




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