Cruise liner emissions in Cottonera: ‘Our washing discoloured by polluted air’

Cottonera residents group Tuna Artna Lura says increased traffic of large vessels in Palumbo shipyard creating dangerous emissions and making air quality absymal

Cottonera residents group ‘Tuna Artna Lura’ (Give Us Back Our Land) have raised concerns over the increase in large vessels in the Bormla shipyard, especially cruise liners.

“Currently, two cruise liners – MSC Splendida and MSC Musica – as well as a Grimaldi ship are running their engines in the shipyard. Splendida returned a few days ago; it was previously docked at the shipyard from October 2020 to March 2021 – for five months! Musica has been docked for six weeks, and the Grimaldi vessel arrived one week ago. All three keep their engines running day and night,” the group said.

An EU study quoted by Infrastructure Malta found that eight hours of a cruise ship’s engines running in port was equivalent to the emissions of 300,000 cars in traffic from Marsaxlokk to Cirkewwa.

“With engines of multiple vessels running 24/7 for months on end, the toxic emissions Cottonera residents are subjected to are immense,” TAL said.

It said air quality was so abysmal, that in some areas, clothes hung out to dry become discoloured by the polluted air, and courtyards need to be washed daily due to copious black residue. “The situation is so dire: some residents are being forced to consider moving out of Cottonera altogether,” TAL said.

An EU-funded Clean Air project will see the installation of shore-to-ship infrastructure in parts of the Grand Harbour and Birzebbuga, to allow large ships to plug into the port’s electricity so as not to run their own engines when in port. The initiative is designed to curb te toxic emissions and sounds and vibrations of cruise ships in port.

“And yet, in the Palumbo-MSC Shipyard, where cruise ships are docked for the longest periods on our islands, there is no plan for ‘Shore-to-Ship’ infrastructure to be installed,” TAL said.

TAL has asked ERA for the values from an air monitoring station in Gardjola in Senglea. The agency said. “However, they claim that the apparatus was damaged for a significant period of time, and they were unable to provide them with the values,” the group said.

“Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield claimed on TV show Poplin last December that ERA advised him that the emissions from the vessels at the shipyard are not toxic. However, he did not provide any actual values, and according to ERA, these same values are not available,” TAL said.

The group said residents welcomed the recent removal of the jack-up oil rigs from the shipyard and the relocation of the tank cleaning facility at Ricasoli. However, they feel “utterly abandoned” on increasing the cruise liner population, which is critical not only to them but also to the entire nation’s health.

The group appealed to ERA, the Environment Minister, and the Health Authorities to properly monitor the air quality in the region and enforce healthy parameters.

“Moreover, we appeal to Infrastructure Malta to ensure that ‘Ship-to-Shore’ is installed at the Palumbo-MSC shipyard because without the provision being available at the site with the heaviest cruise liner presence, there cannot be any effective ‘Clean Air Project’.”