Cruise ships use diesel — diesel-electric or gas turbine engines — to propel themselves. A single, large cruise ship can consume 250 tons of fuel per day. A NOAA source stated that a cruise ship 900 to 1,100 feet long could have a fuel capacity of 1 to 2 million gallons. Heavy fuel oil is the most commonly used fuel in cruise ships, and Transport & Environment writes on its website that this fuel “contains 35000ppm sulphur, which is 3,500 times more polluting than road diesel.”
For a sense of perspective on what the means, Transport & Environment compared such emissions to emissions from personal transportation, meaning cars and trucks driven by individuals: “In 2017, luxury cruise brands owned by Carnival Corporation & PLC emitted 10 times more disease-causing sulphur oxide in European seas than all of Europe’s 260 million plus passenger vehicles.” Ten times more — not the same or twice as much, but ten times more than over 260 million passenger vehicles. A separate report found that the emissions for a single mid-sized cruise ship are the same as those from about one million cars.
Passenger health may be at risk as well. “Therefore, we helped two major TV stations from Germany and one from France to go undercover on board and take measurements with our help. It showed that the amount of emissions that passengers breathe on board is more than twenty times higher than on a main road with a lot of pollution.”
A report published by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) stated that, “Cruise ships were found to be responsible for disproportionately large amounts of black carbon, producing 6 per cent of total ships’ emissions despite accounting for only 1 per cent of the number of ships and less than 1 per cent of dwt. Moreover, cruise ships had the highest emissions per ship and per unit of fuel consumption.”
Black carbon is harmful to human health, it isn’t only damaging to the environment, “Black carbon and its co-pollutants are key components of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution, the leading environmental cause of poor health and premature deaths.”
Unfortunately, it is also a very significant contributor to climate change. “Black carbon is an important contributor to warming because it is very effective at absorbing light and heating its surroundings. Per unit of mass, black carbon has a warming impact on climate that is 460-1,500 times stronger than CO2.”
Cruise ships carrying huge amounts of fuel are subject to accidents that can cause fuel leaks. Such spills can be devastating to marine habitats and their wildlife. Several years ago, when a cruise ship sank, there was a very real threat to many miles of marine and coastal habitats. “Too much time has been wasted and not a day more should be lost. Over 400 tonnes of oil in the sea would mean 70 square kilometers of oil spill and pollution along 25 kilometers of coastline.”
To make matters worse, cruise ships are not essential transportation — they are leisure/vacation/luxury experiences. They are elective, not essential, meaning with all the damage they do, they don’t even perform a necessary function in human civilization. There are plenty of other vacation options that cause far less harm.
Tesla to the rescue?
Tesla has given us the Roadster, Model S, Model X, Model 3, Model Y, and soon the Cybertruck and Semi. It has also created beneficial products like the Powerwall, Powerpack, and clean energy technology such as solar roof tiles. Tesla is one of the most inventive and innovative companies in the world, with a clear mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The way cruise ships operate now is not sustainable. They generate far too much toxic air pollution that is hazardous to human health and contribute to climate change disproportionately. They also carry huge amounts of toxic fuel that can leak into marine and coastal habits and wreak havoc upon them, with long-lasting effects.
Currently, Tesla doesn’t make vessels for water-based transportation. Given that cruise ships are extreme polluters, does it make sense to reason that they could and really should be replaced with ones that have all-electric motors and battery systems? They could also utilize solar roof tiles and small wind turbines. Replacing one medium-sized diesel-powered cruise ship with an all-electric one would be something like removing one million internal combustion engine vehicles from operation.
Supposedly, one of the most expensive cruise ships cost about $1.4 billion to build. Rather than building a whole new electric and battery system cruise ship platform of its own, perhaps Tesla could collaborate with current ship builders to supply them with their motors and batteries. Naturally, in order to function properly within a cruise ship they would be of a much larger scale, but something has to change within the cruise ship industry. At the moment, it does far too much damage and simply can’t be sustained the way it is. Until it changes, we can all inform ourselves rationally and decide not to spend our money on non-essential highly polluting cruises.