BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 11, 2019 (ENS) – Cruise ships are choking Europe’s port cities, with the biggest cruise company, Carnival Corporation, emitting 10 times more sulphur oxides (SOx) than all of Europe’s 260 million cars, finds new research published by the European Federation for Transport and Environment, T&E, on Friday.
Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world’s second-largest cruise operator, emits four times the SOx of the entire European car fleet.
Spain, Italy, Greece, France and Norway are the countries most exposed to cruise ship air pollution in Europe. And among the major cruise ports, Barcelona and Palma Mallorca in Spain and Venice in Italy are the most polluted, with Southampton in England the fifth worse for SOx emissions from cruise ships.
Cruises docking in Barcelona are spewing out five times more SOx than the city’s 560,000 cars every year, according to the T&E study, which is based on satellite data of ship movements
T&E said these ports and their countries are so exposed because they are major tourist destinations, where cruise ships make prolonged port calls.
On Sunday, just two days after release of the study, climate activists delayed the departure of the Holland America Line-operated cruise ship Zuiderdam from Kiel, Germany. Activists from the group Smash Cruiseshit blocked the ship’s departure by seven hours, before being removed from the scene by police.
The group said on Twitter that 50 activists blocked access to the ship with small boats and climbing ropes in an action aimed at highlighting the climate damage caused by the cruise ship industry. The blockade started in the afternoon and ended at 10:15 pm, after the police detained 32 people.
In a Twitter conversation with Greenpeace UK, which staged a climate protest off of an oil rig in Scotland on the same day, the group Smash Cruiseshit said it isn’t just the cruise ship industry they want to target.
“We embrace #climatejustice also on waterways or oceans – it’s not only cruise ships or oil platforms. Let’s get ready to block everything that burns fossil fuels,” the group tweeted.
The main purpose of the T&E study, “One Corporation to Pollute Them All,” was to analyze air pollution caused by luxury passenger cruise ships in European waters. The results show that the luxury cruise brands owned by British-American cruise operator Carnival Corporation & plc in 2017 emitted in European seas alone 10 times more disease-causing sulphur oxides than all of Europe’s 260 million plus passenger vehicles.
Carnival Corporation & plc, currently the world’s largest travel leisure company, operates a combined fleet of over 100 vessels across 10 cruise line brands.
T&E’s shipping policy manager Faig Abbasov said, “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. This is unacceptable.”
Cruise ships also belch out poisonous nitrogen oxides (NOx) equivalent to 15 percent of Europe’s car fleet every year. In the French port city of 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.
SOx, ultrafine particles (PM2.5) and NOx cause premature death, including from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, and lead to childhood asthma. These emissions form sulphate aerosols and fine particles that harm public health and cause acid rain and acidification of the seas.
Diesel cars have been the focus of efforts to clear air pollution from Europe’s cities, but along the coasts of countries such as Norway, Denmark, Greece, Croatia and Malta a handful of cruise ships are responsible for more NOx than the majority of their domestic car fleets.
The next European Commission will face calls to implement a zero-emission port standard for cruise ships as soon as possible, and then extend it to other ship types.
T&E also recommends extending low emission control areas, currently in place only in the North and Baltic Seas and the English Channel, to the rest of the European seas.
The report recommends turning low emissions control areas into zero emission control areas to equally address air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
T&E said the new global standard for low-sulphur fuel, to be implemented from 2020, is welcome, but it won’t bring an improvement in ports as high-sulphur fuel is already banned there for cruise ships.
Ships’ SOX will still remain considerably large compared to the passenger car fleet even after the introduction of the global 2020 marine sulphur cap, T&E advises.
The T&E analysis also reveals 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 2.5 million passenger vehicles in a year.
This is a reflection of both the effectiveness of the fuel quality directive for road transport fuels and the failure to implement equivalent standards for the shipping industry, said T&E, which recommends tightening the marine SECA standard in Europe to 10 parts per million, equivalent to the fuel standard for road transport.
When it comes to NOX emissions, cruise ships are also of great concern. In Denmark again, the 107 cruise ships analyzed in the T&E report emitted as much NOX in the Danish maritime economic exclusive zone as half the passenger cars operating in the entire country.
The T&E report recommends a zero-emission berth standard for all European ports. In addition, extra stringent air pollution standards are recommended for cruise ships.
The report also suggests that cruise ships, the public-facing luxury segment, be targeted as first-movers in regulations to decarbonize the sector. So, in addition to a zero-emission berth standard, T&E advises that cruise ships should also be the first required to switch to zero-emission propulsion in the European Union’s territorial waters.