Europe’s major port cities are suffering from highly polluted air due to growing levels of pollution in the cruise ship industry.
A high proportion of cruise ships in Europe are still using highly pollutive fuels that harm the environment and human health, stimulating calls for ports to ban them altogether.
German environmental organisation Nabu recently tested 77 vessels – of which just one had avoided using toxic heavy fuel oil that the conservation group described as the “dirtiest of all fuels”. In the UK, cruise ships stopping on the Thames have been a target for local environmental activists, as each emits the same amount of toxic gases and particles as 700 lorries.
In recent years, little action has been implemented to reduce air pollution from cargo ships. Nabu has called for a progressive movement for European ports to prevent both freight and cruise ships from harming people in port towns.
Leif Miller, CEO of Nabu, stated, “The ship owners are not taking their responsibility. With friendly words you will not get any changes, so port cities and coastal communities are now asked to ban dirty ships – like Norway is doing for some of their fjords – to protect the people and the environment.”
Heavy fuel oil is defined as the lowest-grade product to surface from refineries, resulting in harmful gases caused by high emissions.
With shipping lanes opening up in the Artic, environmental groups, such as the (IMO) International Maritime Organisation, are actively moving towards the ban of heavy fuel oil in an effort to protect polar communities and eco-systems from oil spills and black carbon emissions.
Newly built boat AIDAnova – built by German shipyard Meyer Werft – is the world’s first LNG-propelled cruise vessel, powered by cleaner liquefied natural gas.
Dietmar Oeliger, head of transport at Nabu, reported, “The use of LNG reduces harmful air pollution significantly, and residents of port cities and coastal areas will be allowed to breathe cleaner air.
“It is praiseworthy that AIDA stepped forward and chose less polluting technologies for their new ships. Now the competitors are also asked to step up and to invest in clean new ships.”
A spokesperson from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said the statements released by Nabu used a “non-scientific approach” and did not represent the true state of play.
“Nabu and CLIA pursue in principle the same objectives – to lower emissions and protect the environment,” they said. “Where the objectives deviate is in impatience and realism in how fast the industry aims to implement energy efficiency measures, and the availability and cost for such measures.”
However, Nabu also advised that LNG would not be a “salvation” of the shipping industry, as it is still considered a fossil fuel, with research suggesting it will not make a significant dent in the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.
CLIA said it was committed to seeking “environmentally friendly solutions for our ships that make environment and business go hand in hand in the future”