We have previously discussed studies showing an astonishing number of deaths linked to the use of bunker fuel by container shipping — a cheap but remarkably dirty fuel source. The other industry that uses the intensely polluting fuel is the passenger cruise industry. Cruise ships have been routinely cited for poor environmental practices, particularly Carnival Corp which was hit recently with yet another massive fine. Now, a report by Transport & Environment has found that Carnival produced in 2017 nearly 10 times more sulphur oxide (SOx) around European coasts than all 260 million European cars.
Then there is Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world’s second largest cruise company, which was four times worse than the European car fleet. SOx emissions form sulphate (SO4) aerosols that increase human health risks and contribute to acidification in terrestrial and aquatic environments.
Due to their lax marine sulphur fuel standards , the worst hit countries are Spain, Italy and Greece. Those countries are followed by France and Norway.
The reason for this shocking level of pollution is that the cruise industry has been able to avoid serious regulation. Not only are these ships allowed to use this highly destructive fuel, but Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) standards currently exempt cruise shipping. There is also the possibility of using battery or electrical power while entering and leaving ports. The most ambitious proposals concern changing the fuel source entirely to hydrogen or other alternatives.
What is astonishing is that cruise lines sell a type of eco-tourism in going to pristine areas but constitute an intense pollution source. While Carnival’s slogan is “Fun For All. All For Fun,” there is a darker reality to these cruises in terms of air pollution.