The fact that cruise ships are causing pollution in the port cities they visit is not a new one, but a recent study shows that ships operated by a single line emitted ten times more sulphur oxides (SOx) than all of Europe’s 260 million cars in 2017.
The study, published by the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), said that Spain, Italy, Greece, France and Norway are the most exposed countries to cruise ship air pollution in Europe.
Among the major cruise ports, Barcelona, Palma Mallorca and Venice are the most polluted.
Analysis also revealed that even in sulphur emission control areas (SECAs), where the most stringent marine sulphur fuel standard is mandated, air pollution from cruise ships remains of great concern. In Denmark, for example, whose coasts are entirely within SECAs, cruise ships emitted 18 times more SOX in 2017 than all the country’s 2.5 million passenger vehicles in a year, data from the report showed.
“Luxury cruise ships are floating cities powered by some of the dirtiest fuel possible. Cities are rightly banning dirty diesel cars but they’re giving a free pass to cruise companies that spew out toxic fumes that do immeasurable harm both to those on board and on nearby shores,” Faig Abbasov, T&E’s shipping policy manager, said.
The study further revealed that cruise ships also emit poisonous nitrogen oxides (NOx) equivalent to 15% of Europe’s car fleet every year. In Marseille, where 57 cruise ships called in 2017, they emitted almost as much NOx as one-quarter of the city’s 340,000 passenger cars, according to the organization.
In Denmark again, 107 cruise ships analysed emitted as much NOX in the Danish maritime economic exclusive zone (EEZ) as half the passenger cars operating in the country itself.
T&E recommended a zero-emission berth standard for all European ports, in addition to calling for stringent air pollution standards to be applied to cruise ships.
“These ships usually operate close to the coast with long port calls at major tourist destinations, hence disproportionately affecting air quality. Initially, it is recommended to extend the emission control areas, currently in place in the North and Baltic Seas, to the rest of the EU seas and to tighten marine SECA standard in Europe to 10ppm, equivalent to fuel used in road transport,” the federation added.