Air Pollution Documented on Cruise Ship Deck

Credit: Diethard Schulz

By MarEx 2017-02-03 17:49:43

German environmental organization Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU) conducted undercover air tests on the passenger deck of a European cruise ship and claim they showed high loads of health damaging ultra-fine particles.

A journalist documented concentrations up to 200 fold above natural background levels. The measurements were carried out but a French TV team working for the TV show Thalassa which was broadcasted on January 20 on France 3. 

The longest recording, almost 50 minutes, showed an average of 60,000 particles per cubic centimeter of air. As a comparison: a fresh sea breeze at that altitude should usually be at around 1,000 - 2,000 particles at maximum, says NABU.

Measurements were taken at various spots on the ship and for this particular sample, the sun deck and jogging lane on the top deck were found to be most affected by pollution.

The environmentalists pointed to the German Lungs Association which recommended several times that people who are already suffering from respiratory diseases such as asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease to stay away from certain parts of a cruise ship’s deck and not to inhale any exhaust gases as this may trigger acute irritations. 

NABU’s transport policy officer Daniel Rieger said he was not surprised by the results of the sampling: “It has been known for years that exhaust gases from ships contain high amounts of toxic air pollutants, as these vessels sail on the dirtiest fuels available on the market and lack any filter systems.”

However, Helge Grammerstorf, the German national director of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) denied the validity of the measurements, arguing that a more systematic test over a longer period of time is required. “We don’t know these measurements. The claim is completely unsubstantiated,” he told Hamburger Abendblatt, a German daily newspaper.

Another critic said that the particles could be man-made or natural, for example sea salt.

NABU Cruise Ship Ranking 2016

NABU’s cruise ship ranking of 2016, released last year, stated it could not recommend any European cruise ships from an environmental and health point of view.

NABU analyzed the European cruise ship market with a special view on exhaust emissions. The study found that all ships were burning heavy fuel oil, 80 percent of the fleet of ships sailing in Europe did not use any exhaust gas cleaning system or just meet the minimum legal standard which required a scrubber to reduce the sulfur emissions. 

No measures had been documented to reduce air pollutants like soot, ultra-fine particles or nitrogen oxides. NABU said the best performers were AIDAprima, followed by Hapag Lloyd’s Europa 2 and the newest ships of TUI Cruises, Mein Schiff 3, 4 and 5

However, The Telegraph, reports CLIA Europe’s director of public affairs, Martyn Griffiths, this month as saying that Europe already has 75 cruise ships equipped with emission reducing technologies, including 23 soot particle filters. “Worldwide this amounts to approximately one third of cruise ships. As these types of technologies continue to evolve and improve, we expect these to be fitted on more ships in the future.” 

He told Telegraph Travel: “The cruise industry invested $1 billion in new technologies and cleaner fuels to reduce ship air emissions. Billions are being invested in the development of advanced LNG-fuelled cruise ships that will have lower emissions and higher energy efficiency.”