Europe is the focus for expansion in the cruise market, Carnival UK chief executive officer David Dingle told the Seatrade conference in Hamburg last week.

In a keynote speech, Dingle said the North American cruise market is still growing but scope for expansion is greatest in Europe.

He said at least 50% of cruise ships under construction are destined for European brands or European deployment and some three million cruises a year are taken in Europe.

Some 90% of those cruises are taken by Europeans, representing barely 1% of the continent’s total population of 300 million-plus, but the market is growing by at least 10% year on year.

Dingle said: “Whole populations are only now being introduced to cruising. Almost all the world’s cruiseship capacity has been built here – Europe is the centre of product design and technical innovation. You could say the cruising lights are coming on all over Europe.”

However, Dingle, who is also chairman of the European Cruise Council, warned that cruiselines must have a standardised environment in which to work.

“The cruise industry and shipping in general recognises its responsibility for reducing its effect on the environment, but we need consistency and support from governments to help us achieve this in a sensible way, not local and regional laws.”

In January 2007, the Norwegian government introduced a NOx tax on nitrogen oxides burned carrying non-Norwegian passengers between ports in Norway. The tax is about $2.5 per kilo of NOx emitted, which Dingle said adds about €1-€2 per passenger per day to a cruiseline’s costs.

Dingle said: “We accept there will be some penalties on emissions, but they need to be consistent across Europe. It is very difficult when we have to consider different charges and in some cases adjust the types of fuel we are using.

“Cruise ships are mobile assets and cruiselines will simply avoid places that get too difficult. We are not at that stage with Norway but if it gets too difficult we will put ships into other places.”