Scylla: A River Cruise Company With A Green Vision

Photo by Scylla

Photo by Scylla

The European river cruise sector is booming.

The number of active cruise vessels has more than doubled between 2004 and 2017. Current data shows that there are around 350 ships (with over 50,000 beds) that will be setting sail on European rivers over the course of the season. The growth in cruise tourism has placed a heavy burden on marine environments. As a result, there has been a general rise in customers demanding more responsible and sustainable tourism. To reduce their environmental impacts and to meet the increasing demand for sustainable cruising options, river cruise companies (like Scylla Cruises) have begun to take action.

Read more to find out what Scylla is doing for sustainability in our interview with Scylla’s very own CEO, Arno Reitsma.

Notably, Scylla Ag has been a pioneer in the cruising industry since 1974. This Swiss company owns a state-of-the-art fleet consisting of 32 luxurious and modern river cruise liners. The captains sail across all of Europe, from the south of Portugal to the northern Baltic Sea.

To hear more about their efforts towards sustainability, I interviewed Arno Reitsma, the CEO of Scylla, who has a huge vision for the future for the company and the industry. We talked about the importance of a green company vision and how close cooperation between suppliers, Scylla, and guests can make a huge positive impact. We particularly looked into the company’s present efforts and their future commitments to a greener planet.

What does sustainability mean to your company?

For Scylla, sustainable behavior is reflected in 2 themes.

First and foremost, sustainability is reflected through an ecological mindset. Acting green is about changing what can be changed today, and investing in improvements that benefit prospects for our future. Today we already invest in the reduction of plastic by offering glass straws and providing our guests with reusable water bottles complemented by filling stations all around the ship. We replaced all of the lighting with LED-balls, which consumes six times less energy. Scylla sails on regular Diesel, and if possible, we sail on a cleaner synthetic variant (gas-to-liquid: a greener, but also a color- and smell-free alternative to Diesel). Furthermore, we do our best, wherever possible, and use land power and switch off engines while being docked.

We work hard with our partners to offer more sustainable solutions. Scylla’s partners have proven to comply with the quality we pursue. Long-lasting partnerships with loyal suppliers lead to the possibility to learn from the past and improve our ships’ onboard technologies, generation after generation.

How important is sustainability for your customers?

Sustainability is an important topic: worldwide and throughout all sectors. This is no different for our customers. Improving sustainable behavior is, therefore, a collaboration between Scylla, as the supplier and our customers. We strongly believe that implementing more sustainable solutions is not a cost, but an investment for the future, not only for the environment, but also the future of our right to exist as a company. 

What are the main issues or boundaries you encounter in terms of sustainability? How do you overcome these issues?

For the overall sector, sustainable thinking is not a mature theme yet. This is due to the lack of supporting structures and a limited history to build on. Sailing on GTL (gas-to-liquids) is a big improvement, but in many regions this fuel is not available for delivery yet. Other alternatives such as NLG (Liquefied natural gas) cannot be used by our sector yet. By taking a frontrunner position, we want to help in strengthening these structures. A parallel can be drawn in regards to solar energy or electric driving, which has become mainstream today. A small group of innovators has to take the lead in supporting early investments. Only through these frontrunners, production costs and operational barriers can be taken down to turn this into a norm. 

What are your companies priorities in terms of a more sustainable future?

Our main priority is to reduce our impact on the environment while reaching other goals. We have invested in technologies to sail via a more optimal route and reduce fuel consumption. We also constantly improve water purification installations, which already filter water to levels that no longer negatively impact the waterways when water goes back into the river. Additionally, we strive to gradually improve our ships when it comes to weight, buoyancy, hydrodynamics. In this perspective, innovation and sustainability go hand in hand. Nevertheless, there is room for further improvement. That is why innovation has always been and still is one of our main priorities to become better day after day, on every front.

As a company, we have been in the river cruising business for over 50 years already and look forward to the next 50 years to come. 

There is still a long way to go, but the foundation has been set and visionaries like Scylla will continue to drive the sector further. When we all work together, the river cruise companies and guests alike, become more aware of our actions, which drives the demand for sustainable travel, then there is no doubt that the future of the river cruises will be green.*

If you’re a river cruise company looking to incorporate sustainability into your core business, then schedule a call with us here.