Planes and cars are often pinned for the pollution they cause on the planet, both of which emit large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The boats are less pointed at them. And yet, cruise ships are also responsible for pollution. More than cars. This is the result of a study published by the non-governmental organization Transport & Environment in 2019.
Cruise companies pointed the finger
The 94 boats of the luxury cruiser Carnival Corporation emit ten times more sulfur oxide than all 260 million cars in the European fleet according to the NGO! The company is not alone in the viewfinder of Transport & Environment. The second most important cruiser in the world, Royal Carribean, rejects him four times more.
Italy, Spain and Greece are particularly affected by pollution. Photo credit: Transport & Environment
“For example, the 57 cruise ships calling at Marseille in 2017, for a total of 3342 hours, emitted as much NOx (nitrogen oxides) as a quarter of the 340,000 cars that make up the city's entire car fleet.“In the case of sulfur oxide emissions, cruise ships far exceed car emissions.”In big cities like Barcelona or Marseille or Hamburg, cruise ships, when docked at the port, release two to five times more SOX (sulfur oxide) than all cars in the city during the year. 2017. ”
Marseille, the most polluted French port
With fine particles and nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxide is one of the main pollutants in the atmosphere. It participates in the acidification of terrestrial and aquatic environments. A phenomenon that threatens the fauna and flora, such as corals. “These high emissions are due to fuels of too low quality and pollutant release standards established by these machines. These are directly related to the large size of marine gear, the trajectories closer and closer to the coast and the times of operations at ports that are growing longer.“, explain the authors of the study.
The study compares sulfur oxide emissions from cars to those of ships in several European countries. Photo credit: Transport & Environment
Among the countries most affected by pollution, the study quotes Spain, Italy and Greece. In addition to having largely maritime borders, these three countries also have lower standards on sulfur fuels. Some cities are particularly affected, such as Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca or Venice. Five French ports are also included in the ranking established by the NGO, with Marseille in 8th position, followed by Le Havre (21), Nice (39), Cannes (41) and Seyne-sur-Mer (49).
Switch to the electric?
“Cities ban diesel cars but they give a free pass to companies that emit toxic fumes causing immeasurable damage, both to those on board and to the nearest shores“, worries Faig Abbasov, one of the leaders of the Transport & Environment association.To curb this phenomenon of pollution, the NGO recommends the ships to switch to the electric, as it is currently the trend for the cars. “We are dealing with the problem of the egg and the hen, in which the owners of the boats do not invest in their vessels to make them compatible with an electric recharging, invoking the few possible connections to the ports. At the same time, ports do not invest in electric charging points because too few boats use them at the moment.“
Transport & Environment recommends that Europe implement a zero emission port standard as soon as possible for ocean liners. The report also considers that the emission control zones currently in place in the English Channel, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea should be extended to other European seas. The authors recall that this work only concerns Europe and that shorelines elsewhere in the world probably reach similar levels of pollution.