T&E study finds cruise ships emitting 10x more SOx in Europe port cities than all Europe’s 260M cars
An in-house study by environmental NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) has found that the luxury cruise brands owned by Carnival Corporation & PLC emitted in 2017 in European seas alone 10 times more SOx than all of Europe’s 260+ million passenger vehicles.
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.
Cruises docking in Barcelona emit 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.
Palma Mallorca (Spain) and Venice and Civitavecchia in Italy are the next worst hit, with Southampton in England the fifth worse for SOx emissions from cruise ships. These emissions form sulfate aerosols and fine particles that harm human health and cause acid rain and acidification of the seas.
T&E said these ports and their countries are so exposed because they are major tourist destinations, where cruise ships make prolonged port calls.
Even in sulfur emission control areas (SECAs), where the most stringent marine sulfur 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, T&E said.
Ships’ SOx will still remain considerably large compared to passenger car fleet even after the introduction of the global 2020 marine sulfur cap.
Cruise ships also emit NOx equivalent to 15% of Europe’s car fleet every year. In Marseille, where 57 cruise ships called in 2017, the ships emitted almost as much NOx as one-quarter of the city’s 340,000 passenger cars.
Diesel cars have been the focus of the air pollution crisis in 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, T&E said.
In Denmark, 107 cruise ships analyzed emitted as much NOx in the Danish maritime economic exclusive zone (EEZ) as half the passenger cars operating in the country itself.
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 (ECAs), currently in place only in the North and Baltic Seas and English Channel, to the rest of the European seas. Furthermore, the report recommends turning low emissions control areas into zero emission control areas to equally address air pollution and GHG emissions.
T&E said the new global standard for low-sulfur fuel, to be implemented from 2020, is welcome but won’t bring an improvement in ports as high-sulfur fuel is already banned there for cruise ships.