People living in the Mediterranean will suffer as a result
Based on the NABU Cruise Rankings 2016, all European cruise ships still have a long way to go in terms of their environmental and health performance. These findings were revealed to environmentalists on August 29th in Hamburg.
For the survey, NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union / Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V) focused on the most important environmental problem in the sector: the massive air pollution caused by ship exhaust emissions. As in the previous years, inspection of the installation of exhaust gas cleaning systems, the fuel used and the shore power supply was carried out.
The results revealed that the ships still burnt heavy fuel oil. Eighty percent of the fleet of ships operating in Europe either do not use any exhaust gas cleaning system or, to meet the minimum legal standards in Northern Europe, they simply use a scrubber to reduce the sulphur emissions. In addition, virtually no effective method of reducing harmful air pollutants like soot, ultra-fine particles or nitrogen oxides is being employed on board the ships. Indeed, the people living in the Mediterranean, with its popular tourist destinations, are the victims of such shortcomings.
In the survey, it was found that only eleven ships have made the effort to go beyond the minimum legal standards to minimise adverse impact on people and the environment. The best performing ship – albeit with some shortcomings – is AIDAprima, followed by Hapag Lloyds’ Europa 2 and the newest ship of TUI Cruises, Mein Schiff 3/4/5.
“For years, ship owners have proudly announced that they would be more environmentally friendly. But other than shiny PR products, nothing substantial has been put into practice so far. This is greenwashing at its best and, in the view of the damage caused, not acceptable,” said NABU’s Chief Executive Officer Leif Miller.
If no action is taken, no progress is made. This is ironic considering the enormous expense being allocated to providing gastronomical services on board the ships, compared to the miserly amounts spent on environmental protection.
“This irresponsibility will be paid for with human health, especially by the residents of the port cities,” Miller added.
In the meantime, the cruise ship sector continues to ignore study results which do not promote its interests. A case in point is a piece of advice from the World Health Organization which describes ship exhausts as carcinogenic and that the soot particles that are harmful to the heart and lungs can be blown several metres inland. Actually, technical solutions for reducing emissions of diesel engines like particle filters or nitrogen oxide catalysts have already been developed. However, the industry has repeatedly resisted switching to cleaner fuels and equipping their ships with emission abatement technology so as to maximise their profits.
Although AIDA Cruises has topped the rankings for this year and the previous year, it is by no means a shining role model. Despite its commitment in 2012, it continues to sail with toxic and heavy fuel oil. In addition, it has yet to install any soot particle filters on any of its ships, despite having declared its intention to do so three years ago. NABU will monitor their next-generation of ships to see whether their promise of running their ships on cleaner liquid natural gas would be fulfilled.
“As a market leader and due to their declarations to do more for environmental protection, AIDA Cruises is under closer scrutiny. However, this has not always come to fruitation at the Rostock-based company. One example is the AIDAprima, the newest addition to the fleet. It was promoted as the most environmentally friendly cruise ship. However, half a year after its launch, the centrepiece of the ship – its exhaust system – is not operating,” said Dietmar Oeliger, NABU’s Head of Transport Policy. NABU Hamburg had discovered this after measuring the ship’s exhaust gases. Currently, the acid test of the system and its actual emissions are still pending.
When it comes to environmental protection, ship owners have a tendency to be resistant; and this mentality can also be found in Hamburg, Germany's most important cruise destination. Of forty ships at the Hamburg port, a handful is theoretically prepared to get shore power and to turn off their motors while at berth. However, only AIDA has done so.
“The port and its often celebrated cruise ship entries are a massive problem for the city of Hamburg. Thirty-eight percent of the nitrogen oxides and 19 percent of the particulate matter in the Hanseatic city are from maritime traffic, according to the recent air quality plan of the city. Even if the companies are saving hundreds of millions of Euro taxes yearly through flagging out their ships to low-cost states like Malta, Bahamas or Liberia, the refitting with shore power modules is too expensive for them, alongside the costs of the power from the grid,” said Malte Siegert, Head of Environmental policy at NABU Hamburg. He added that the residents living in Hamburg and other port cities were paying the price in the form of substantial damage to their health.
More information: www.nabu.de