As Croatia’s leading boutique travel agency stops working with cruise ship tourists, a look at emissions from cruise ships in Croatia and the rest of Europe.
They are the poster child of over tourism and there are few more controversial types of tourism in the world.
The cruise ship industry is a lucrative one, and it has been a regular part of the tourism scene for many years now in Croatia. Indeed, Dubrovnik has much to thank cruise ships for in rebuilding tourism after the Homeland War, as they were one of the first major tourism sectors back after the war. The number of cruise ships and cruise ship visitors has become a major source of contention in recent years, however.
Reaction to our story that leading boutique travel agency, Secret Dalmatia, had announced that it would no longer accept any new tour bookings from cruise tourists was met with an overwhelmingly favourable response. I was curious to see how much alleged damaged cruise ships in Croatia and whether or not it was possible to compare that damage to the rest of Europe and the EU.
It turns out that it is, in the former of a very comprehensive document released last week by TransportEnvironment.org. And while some of the headline numbers are truly shocking, a more sober analysis of the data and recommendations shows that there is some hope – provided the stakeholders take certain steps. I was very surprised at some of the data, particularly to learn which Croatian port is emitting the most sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). It is not Dubrovnik. It is not Split.
It is Rijeka.
The report begins with an overall summary of their findings – it is important to note that the data is from 2017.
The report found that in 2017, 203 cruise ships in Europe emitted about 62 kt of SOx, 155 kt of NOx, 10 kt of PM (particulate matter) and more than 10 Mt of carbon dioxide. Most of these emissions (especially SOx) took place in the Mediterranean Sea and other major touristic destinations, but also along the coasts of the key member states where cruise ships depart from/terminate at or operate around. CO2 emissions from the 203 analysed ships alone (covering only the sailing time in European EEZs) are on par with total national greenhouse gas emissions of Latvia, Luxembourg and Cyprus, but twice as big as the total national GHG emissions of Malta.
The cruise ships docked at ports such as Barcelona, Hamburg and Marseilles, the report alleges, emitted 2-5 times more SOx during their stay than all the passenger cars in those cities, for the entire year.
There are three Croatian cities in the list of top 50 European cities suffering from the most SOx emissions from cruise ships: Split is in 42nd position with 5,266 kg of sulphur oxides emitted, Dubrovnik in 32nd place (6,344), and Rijeka in 16th with, 10,169 kg of SOx. Rijeka was a major surprise to me, especially as there were a lot less ships, but looking at the data, there was a very high number of hours in port, so that is perhaps the explanation.
When it comes to nitrous oxides, Split is once again 42nd (113,167 kg), Dubrovnik 32nd (140,259 kg), and Rijeka 13th (273,622 kg).
And Croatia is the EU leader (and second in Europe after Iceland) in one statistic – the ratio of SOx emissions from visiting cruise ships compared to the number of cars in the destinations.
In relative terms, Croatia has the highest ratio of ship to LDV (light duty vehicles – passenger cars) SOx emissions among the EU countries, with 78 cruise ships outdoing the national passenger vehicles by a factor of 189.
Fairly alarming stuff, and it would be easy to stop there with a sensationalist article, but the report does go on and look to the future and come up with some recommendations. Some good news is that these sulphur emissions will be reduced considerably from 2020:
In 2020, sulphur standard for marine fuels will be tightened under the MARPOL Annex VI and EU Sulphur Directive. For cruise ships sailing in the EU EEZ outside the ports and SECAs, this will be a three-fold improvement from 1.5% down to 0.5%. Anticipating this change in legislation, this report also estimated the potential impact of the 2020 sulphur standard on emissions.
However, even after the new sulphur standard, cruise ships will remain a huge source of SOX emissions in almost all Europe countries. In the most cruise SOX polluted European countries, namely Spain, Italy and Greece, cruise ships will keep exceeding domestic LDV fleets by a factor of 10-40.
Perhaps the even more heartening point from the report (at least potentially, as it requires the stakeholders putting their hands in their pockets) is this one:
Fortunately, there are technologies available to eliminate all ship emissions at berth and at sea. Notably, shore-side electricity (SSE), the possibility for ships at berth to connect to the local electricity grid and power their on-board equipment, is a proven and mature technology which can greatly reduce the local air pollution generated by docked vessels in ports. The European Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive requires SSE in major European ports, but only if it is cost-beneficial; as a result, there is little uptake so far by ships and ports.