There is something about going on an ocean voyage aboard a cruise ship that seems so appealing, Floating across sun-drenched seas to exotic ports of call while eating 11 times a day sounds so idyllic. But there is trouble in paradise. Those floating palaces have diesel engines that burn heavy bunker oil. There are 63 supersized luxury liners traversing the world’s oceans, and every one of them can spew as much particulate pollution into the atmosphere each day as 1 million automobiles.
Port cities love to see the big cruise ships on the horizon because they bring up to 6,000 tourists to local restaurants and shops, but they are beginning to realize the ships have a big impact on their environment as well. Government officials in Sydney, Australia, have recently imposed new limits on cruise ship emissions. “Many cruise ships emit high levels of fine particles and sulfur dioxide, both of which can be harmful to human health,” according to the New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency.
The Brussels-based Transport and Environment group estimates pollution from international shipping caused “approximately 50,000 premature deaths per year in Europe. Through chemical reactions in the air, SO2 and NOx is converted into fine particles, sulphate and nitrate aerosols,” it said. “Tiny airborne particles are linked to premature deaths. The particles get into the lungs and are small enough to pass through tissues and enter the blood.”
Last year, the largest cruise lines promised to begin cleaning up their act, starting by installing particulate filters that would keep some of those pollutants from escaping into the atmosphere, But Nabu, a German environmental group, gives the industry a failing grade. Of 63 large cruise ships surveyed, not one has installed a working filter yet.
“Last year the sector claimed 23 ships would be operating with soot filters,” says Nabu’s Dietmar Oeliger. “The truth is not a single filter is working at present.” The group accuses the industry of having “contempt” for the health of its customers. Industry leaders Costa, MSC, and Royal Caribbean all got failing grades, as did Cunard, which owns the Queen Mary 2. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, which can carry 6,300 passengers, tied for last place in the annual rankings.
“No company comes recommended in Nabu’s 2017 cruise ship rankings, which show just how little progress companies have made towards cutting pollution,” the group said in a statement. “The cruise industry’s contempt for the health of its customers and port citizens is underlined by the fact that not one company responded to a simple Q&A supplied by Nabu.”
Emissions from passenger and cargo ships account for a sizable portion of annual global emissions, but the industry is hard to regulate because its ships spend most of their time in international waters. Many of them burn natural gas while in port, but convert to cheaper bunker oil once on the high seas to save money. In the absence of a world government, compliance with environmental policies is a matter of voluntary cooperation. Based on the Nabu report for 2017, that system has little to no effect on ship owners.
Source: The Guardian