AmaWaterways is fighting for a greener future on the world’s rivers, the river cruise company’s co-owner tells Harry Kemble

Kristin Karst is in a bullish mood as she describes how AmaWaterways is fighting for a greener future on the world’s rivers.

The river line’s co-owner predicts port authorities or national governments could soon begin to prevent river vessels that do not meet certain environmental standards from docking on iconic waterways.

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She feels that while a breakthrough has been made by ship designers in making vessels more fuel‑efficient, some lines’ engines built more than 40 years ago may soon be deemed obsolete.

“Every part of what we do contributes to the environment,” she says. “Sooner or later everyone will have to comply.

“There are so many older ships and they cannot change engines immediately.

“There might be something that says ‘all the ships built before this year have to comply’. It could come from the governments. It could come from the ports. At one point it will happen, I am sure it will happen, but I don’t know when.”

Karst, who founded the luxury line together with husband Rudi Schreiner and Jimmy Murphy in 2002, outlines AmaWaterways’ efforts to be sustainable.

At Clia’s River Cruise Conference in Amsterdam last year, just one agent in a room of 250 delegates raised their hand when asked if customers asked about sustainability.

Karst says both customers and agents have encouraged the line to operate its ever-growing fleet, currently 24 ships, in an eco-friendly way.

“I wouldn’t have talked about [AmaWaterways’ green push] because it would sound like bragging, but today everyone wants us to talk about this,” she explains.

In 2019, AmaWaterways launched the biggest river vessel in Europe – AmaMagna – which at 22 metres wide is almost twice the width of standard river ships.

Karst says the 196-passenger vessel’s 10 engines makes it 25% more efficient than a standard river ship. She adds: “A traditional river ship has two big engines and has to use them all the time.

“With our new ship AmaMagna, we have 10 small engines and we can turn them on and off.”

Asked if AmaWaterways had considered ordering a sister ship for AmaMagna, Karst says: “We are talking about AmaMagna II. It’s a maybe – not a given. It would be [for] 2022, but it’s not 100% decided.”

AmaWaterways has also cut sailing time on multiple itineraries in a bid to reduce fuel consumption.

One which has been tinkered with is AmaMagna’s Danube itinerary between Germany and Budapest. Itineraries still last seven days, but ships sail from Vilshofen rather than former embarkation port Nuremberg.

Karst admits that tweaking a popular itinerary is not without risk, but believes enough care has been taken. “The [Danube] itinerary is now a quarter less distance, which means we save 25% fuel,” she says.

“We either slow down our ship and consume less fuel or we spend more time in port.”

Now she feels the time is right to speak out about sustainability, Karst is confident AmaWaterways’ quiet environmental improvements stand the line in good stead as more customers begin to question the cruise industry’s green credentials.

Podcast: Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, owners of AmaWaterways