Did you know that the daily emissions of a cruise ship can be the same as a million cars?
Comparing pollution from cruise ships and cars
Airplanes and cars are often singled out for the pollution they cause on the planet, both releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Ships, on the other hand, are often forgotten. And yet, cruise ships are also responsible for pollution. Much more than cars. This is the result of a study published by the non-governmental organization Transport & Environment in 2019.
The 94 ships of the luxury cruise company Carnival Corporation emit ten times more sulfur oxide than all the 260 million cars in Europe, according to the NGO! The company is not alone in the target of Transport & Environment. The second largest cruise company in the world, Royal Carribean, emits four times more.
Italy, Spain and Greece are particularly affected by pollution.
What about airplanes?
In a peer-reviewed New Zealand study, researchers estimate, for example, that a cruise ship emits somewhere between 250 and 2,200 grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometer, depending on the type of ship and the number of passengers. A flight from Montreal to Paris, by comparison, generates around 163 g of CO2 per passenger per kilometer, according to online calculators.
A family of four driving around emits about 45 g of CO2 per kilometer per passenger.
If you want an even more detailed comparison of which mode of transportation pollutes the most, we invite you to read this article.
Cruise companies say they are making efforts to improve their environmental record. Despite this, it is indisputable that these huge floating hotels are extremely polluting. The problems are numerous.
The problems of cruise ships
The air quality on the deck of a cruise ship is as bad as the world’s worse polluted cities. Cruise ships typically use heavy fuel oil in their engines. It has very high sulfur content but is more cost-effective than other fuels.Unfortunately this heavy fuel oil produces high levels of nitrogen oxide, which has been linked to acid rain, higher rates of cancer and other forms of respiratory diseases.
On top of the pollution caused by their fumes, cruise ships have been caught discarding trash, fuel, and sewage directly into the ocean. Some European cities like Marseille or Dubrovnik are having difficulties to cope with the rapid increase of travelers visiting by cruise, resulting in maritime pollution.
Overall, the carbon footprint per person in a cruise ship can be up to 3 times higher than in a plane!
A study by the environmental group Transport & Environment calculated that in 2017, Carnival Corporation’s 47 ships sailing in European waters emitted 10 times more sulfur dioxide than all the cars in Europe.
How can we reduce these emissions?
One way to reduce these emissions would be to limit fuel consumption when the ship is in motion, and to use the local power grid during port calls. Unfortunately, only a minority of companies do this.
Ships should also treat their wastewater, some are starting to do so, but progress is slow.