As the last cruise ship of the season sailed out beneath Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Bridge this past weekend, some in the city’s business community lamented the ensuing dip in retail traffic. But the city was also saying goodbye to something else: the equivalent of the exhaust from a million automobile tailpipes, produced by some of the dirtiest fuel oil available anywhere.
That was the startling conclusion reached by Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), after it surveyed funnel emissions from 63 large cruise ships.
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“Pollution from the cruise ship industry is still massive, even despite [their] claim newer vessels are clean and green,” study co-author Dietmar Oeliger told CBC Radio’s As It Happens in an interview.
“We made measurements at quite a few cruise lines, and all of them run on the dirtiest fuel you can imagine. It’s heavy fuel oil. It’s quite toxic. It’s a residual of the petrol industry, and it contains a lot of dirty stuff.”
Moreover, Oeliger observed, “their engines run 24/7. Even if they’re in the ports, they have to keep running their engines, because it’s not only a transport mode, it’s a hotel facility. They have a spa onboard, restaurants, and that needs the same energy a mid-sized city.”
The vessels NABU examined had not acted on industry promises to install exhaust filtering or catalytic cleaning systems on cruise line vessels.
As a result, the study calculated, the vessels currently in use typically emit as much sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulate matter as one million cars.
Only one cruise company has committed to switch to relatively less dirty natural gas as a fuel, but critics assert that close scrutiny of Carnival Corporation’ plan undercuts its claim to be launching an “environmental breakthrough” with “cleaner emissions”.
NABU’s estimate means the three or more cruise ships that visit Vancouver daily during the summer months more than double the toxic emissions released by all the province’s 2.9 million registered cars and light trucks.
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