We all know the fragility of the Galapagos Islands’ ecosystem and the need to preserve it. The islands receive every year around 250,000 travelers (pre-pandemic numbers), and approximately 75% of them travel onboard cruise ships. Hence, an average of 90 boats sail the Galapagos Islands for tourism purposes. Even though the tourism activities within the archipelago are highly controlled and supervised by the Galapagos National Park Directorate, there is an undeniable impact on the ecosystem. That’s why, back in 2014, we decided to act and mitigate the footprint that our cruise operations were leaving in Galapagos.
It was time to renovate our fleet, so we decided to build an eco-friendly ship as a pilot to evaluate and research the best practices we could transfer to the rest of our boats. Thus, at that moment, Ecogalaxy was born as a concept.
Shipbuilding was challenging because we were against what every cruise operator was doing until that time, including us. Yet, it was time to set a milestone and take the risk to continue offering luxury, comfort, and service with the slightest affection on the Galapagos Islands. We still want our guests to feel and live the Enchanted Islands more than our cruise ships. We want to be the perfect complement for their Galapagos experiences.
We designed the Ecogalaxy under four aspects:
- Reducing the use of natural materials that may affect the ecosystem.
- Reducing fuel consumption and CO2 generation.
- Managing waste efficiently.
- Promoting eco-practices in local people and crew.
Four aspects that support the EcoGalaxy concept
1- Wood free ship to avoid deforestation
You would be surprised by the tons of wood we would need to build a ship. At least, we would need to cut around 250 trees that have been grown on average 15 years. That number of trees represents a small forest of ¼ hectare (62 acres), can you imagine it? It is approximately 1,25 times bigger than the Boston Common Park area or the size of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris.
That’s why we made the Ecogalaxy with the concept of being a wood-free ship, reducing the use of this natural material almost to zero. For us, it is vital to avoid any deforestation practices and in that way preserve our forests.
Where is it usually the wood used in cruise ships?
This noble natural material is generally used for building all the furniture, floors, indoor and outdoor areas.
2- Reducing fuel consumption by more than 4,000 gallons per year
Another crucial factor in which cruises contaminate is with the fuel. Consequently, we needed to reduce our impact, especially to preserve the fragile and unique marine biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands.
For doing so, we installed fuel-efficient engines in the catamaran reducing the fuel consumption by 12 gallons per day, representing approximately 4,300 gallons per year. As a result, we also reduce carbon monoxide emissions (CO2) by 40,72 metric tons with an engine emission efficiency of 73/78.
Moreover, during every cruise journey, we have a night for the planet in which we turn off all the engines and power generators. The lightning is through electric batteries, letting nature rest from our cruise operation. Also, travelers can enjoy the archipelago and its wilderness sounds because there is no sound contamination during that night.
3- Efficient waste management practices
The next crucial area in which we need to manage efficiently is the waste treatment onboard the EcoGalaxy. We began classifying and recycling all our garbage to produce no more than 20 kilos of non-recyclable waste per week. Likewise, we bring all the recyclable rubbish to the municipality that manages it at zero cost for us.
Another action we have been taking nowadays is that one of our crew members disembark on some tourist sites to collect garbage that some people left behind to contribute actively to the zero-waste policy in the Galapagos Islands. We weigh and keep a record of this waste to get an annual statistic.
With these actions, we expect to improve our systems and procedures while helping local authorities monitor and control the tourism operation and waste production.
4- Promoting eco-practices through people
All the efforts to mitigate the impact of our cruise operation wouldn’t be possible without people’s commitment. Thus, we have paid careful attention to explaining and involving our crew members, headquarters staff, and the local community.
Since day one, most of our crew on board the Ecogalaxy has been part of this project when we started to craft the idea. They are fully committed to preserving nature and eager to transmit it to our guests too. They are also sensitive to nature conservation and understand how and why it is crucial to reduce our footprint in such a fragile ecosystem as the Galapagos Islands.
Additionally, thanks to our waste management practices, we have conducted a series of sessions for teaching the local community and other cruise partners the best way to manage their trash and recycle it within the islands. In that way, we are increasing the awareness of conservation and eco-practices to everyone living in the Enchanted Islands.
To conclude, we would like to highlight that Ecogalaxy is the pilot program that is helping us to understand the best way to reduce our impact on mother nature. The work isn’t over yet, and our goal is to make the rest of our fleet eco-friendly. In the meantime, Ecogalaxy leads our environmentally friendly process. We are adapting the operations on our other boats by recycling and waste management, using more efficient energy lighting systems, and more.
Conservation and nature preservation are a constant work in progress, and at Galagents, we are committed to it and involve many others in this process.