‘Worst-polluting cruise ships’ to make 122 port calls to Malta this year

Just 33 port calls will have been registered by ships equipped with technologies for reducing air pollution, BirdLife Malta said

BirdLife Malta said that the worst polluting cruise liners in Europe will be making 122 calls to Malta in 2019 (File Photo)
BirdLife Malta said that the worst polluting cruise liners in Europe will be making 122 calls to Malta in 2019 (File Photo)

Europe’s “worst-polluting cruise ships” will have made 122 calls to Malta during 2019, compared to 33 calls by cruise liners equipped with technologies for reducing air pollution, according to BirdLife Malta.

Last week, the German NGO NABU presented its annual cruise ship rankings, which ranks cruise liners according to the air pollution they generate, how they are powered while at shore as well as other factors contributing to their overall impact on the environment.

In a statement on Tuesday, BirdLife Malta said that the ranking compiled by its German partners analysed 90 vessels on their emissions’ impacts, “especially on contribution to air pollution levels”.

It said that in 2019, 21 of these vessels berthed or were scheduled to berth at Malta’s Grand Harbour. Many, it said, visited Malta several times a year.

“In total, we have to face 122 port calls by cruise ships of the worst category in 2019,” the NGO said in a statement.

It said that in comparison, cruise ships with technologies like “SCR-Catalytic System, particulate filters, or cruise ships that do not use Heavy Fuel Oil”, would only be making 33 calls by the end of the year.

“The findings of this year’s evaluation demonstrate that only a small proportion of the cruise ship fleets is becoming cleaner, while the industry by and large continues to rely on heavy fuels,” BirdLife said.

It added that the industry was failing to employ exhaust technology and that the climate footprint of cruise ships was a cause for concern given that they were all powered by fossil fuels and produced enormous greenhouse gas emissions.

Since December 2016, the two NGOs have been working on a joint project, along with other international partners, to deliver an awareness campaign on air pollution generated by cruise ships in the Mediterranean.

The project’s long-term goal, BirdLife said, was the establishment of an Emissions Control Area in the Mediterranean Sea.

“In Malta, air pollution is a major threat to human health, our environment and the quality of life for Maltese citizens, particularly in cities,” Janina Laurent, Policy Officer at BirdLife Malta said.

“Even though surrounded by sea and highly dependent on shipping traffic – knowledge and awareness of the problems resulting from ship emissions remain widely unknown and action from responsible government authorities is not being taken. Health related external costs from air pollution are above €182 million per year and 44,000 workdays are lost each year due to sickness leave related to air pollution according to the latest EU’s Environmental Implementation Report. In Malta, these costs are covered under public funded health care”.

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