Cruise Baltic recently held its first Steering Group meeting of 2012. The organization used the opportunity to reiterate its on-going commitment not only to working closely together as a unified force in the Baltic Sea Region, but also collaborating together with industry colleagues at the European Cruise Council (ECC), the Cruise Lines International Association and the Passenger Shipping Association.

“The Baltic destinations are committed to communicating their messages to the marketplace on the value of cruising, ensuring they offer to both the cruise line and their passengers ‘the world’s best cruise experience, said Bo Larsen, director.

“It is essential to face head-on all the current market challenges being presented, from the issues of safety and environment, to fuel and climate change.”

Highlights on the two-day meeting included presentations and commentary from the industry, including Neil Palomba, chairman of the Ports & Infrastructure Sub-Committee of the ECC and corporate operating officer of MSC Cruises, and Robert Ashdown, director - technical, environment & operations, ECC.

MSC’s Palomba commented: “The landscape has changed. With emphasis now on Brussels, the subject of operation safety legislation is being reviewed and will be on the agenda for months to come.

“We (MSC) need ports that are experts shore-side, to make recommendations to us. Finding solutions together and working pro-actively three to five years ahead is essential.”

He encouraged Cruise Baltic ports to lobby their own cities and councils, identifying who are the decision makers in each destination.

Ashdown, speaking on environmental issues: Emission Control Areas (ECAs) said this is the biggest challenge currently facing the industry. “European controls are being reviewed that establish what marine fuel oils ships can burn in 2015,” he commented. “Given the increases in fuel costs that accompany this legislation, currently the impact on what this will do for cruise numbers in the Baltic is a guessing game - cruising is price sensitive and costs cannot be passed on easily. Traditional growth is driven by perceived value-for-money. The European cruise industry makes a massive contribution to the economies of Europe.”

Cruise Baltic also announced that it has formed a new port standards sub-committee, looking to work closely with the ECC to evaluate and tackle relevant issues.