Greece and destinations such as Santorini and Mykonos are among the top European locations affected adversely by air pollution emitted by cruise ships, according to the European Federation for Transport and Environment (Transport & Environment), which campaigns for cleaner transport.
A recent study by the European organization found that sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions from cruise ships in Greece are 120 times greater than those produced by all the small vehicles (cars etc) circulating in the country.
The study found that SOx emissions from the 115 cruise ships that sailed in Greece’s seas in 2017 came to 7,600 tons, while those from cars and other small vehicles came to around 64 tons.
This is one of the worst performances in Europe, coming after Croatia, Norway and Iceland, which are very popular cruise destinations.
In 2017, the ships of one of the sector’s biggest cruise companies dumped 10 times more sulfur oxides into the atmosphere along Europe’s coasts than the 260 million cars that were in circulation on the continent that year.
Sulfur oxides (several compounds of sulfur and oxygen) are not just harmful to people’s health, they are also damaging to the marine and land environment.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx) found in engine exhaust are also damaging to public health and the environment, with the study finding that cruise ships emit the equivalent of about 15 percent of the nitrogen oxides emitted by Europe’s passenger car fleet in a year.
In Greece, the 115 cruise ships emitted as much NOx as 64 percent of the country’s car fleet in 2017.
The study recommends the enforcement of regulations regarding emissions from cruise ships, with desulfurization and other systems, pointing out that these ships usually sail close to the coast and remain in ports for extended periods, impacting the atmosphere there. It also recommends that cruise companies, which provide a luxury service, should be the first to be subject to stricter regulations among other areas of shipping.
The Transport & Environment experts also predicted that even if new regulations are put in place for marine fuel sulfuric content as of January 2020, cruise ships will still be a major source of SOx pollution compared with cars.
They expect cruise ships to emit 40 times more SOx than cars by 2020.