Fighting air pollution from ships in the Mediterranean Sea
NGOs fight for an Emission Control Area at Mediterranean Sea
Air pollution from ships is a significant threat to human health, environment and global climate. The European Commission estimates that annually 50,000 people in Europe die prematurely because of ship air pollution, notably from particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ground level ozone. In order to tackle these emissions coastal states in Northern Europe have agreed to designate the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the English Channel Emission Control Areas for sulphur (SECAs) and nitrogen (NECAs) which requires ship operators to sail on low-sulphur marine fuels instead of heavy fuel oil. This step delivered immediate air quality improvements by up to 60% air pollutant reduction from 2015 and respective socio-economic benefits worth billions of euros. Yet, a lot still needs to be done in order to also limit ship black carbon and particulate matter emissions, reduce nitrogen emissions from existing ships and to ensure strict enforcement of the agreed rules. Next to technical measures such as equipping the ships with particulate filters, nitrogen catalysts or onshore power supply designating waters as ECA has turned out to be an effective way to reducing air pollution from ships.
Countries around the Mediterranean Sea face the same problems as major shipping routes e.g. from Asia to Europe, ferry’s between hundreds of islands and increased cruise tourism lead to intense marine traffic. However, some neighbouring countries are still hesitant to go for a similar approach like Northern European countries, the U.S. or Canada as to implement Emission Control Areas in the Mediterranean Sea, too. Therefore NABU established the “Clean Cruise Ship Network” which has meanwhile active members in most countries in the region such as:
- Spain (Ecologistas en Acción www.ecologistasenaccion.org)
- France (France Nature Environnement www.fne.asso.fr)
- Italy (Cittadini per l’aria www.cittadiniperlaria.org)
- Greece (Hellas Ornithological Society www.ornithologiki.gr )
- Malta (Birdlife Malta birdlifemalta.org )
In the meanwhile, littoral countries decided to assess the ECA implementation. Discussions and decision making process will be accompanied by our network. International conferences, local workshops and air quality testing’s as well as numerous policy talks on all political levels are conducted to advocate for environmental, health and climate protection.
Governments and ship operators should take responsibility, ban heavy fuel oil immediately and invest in green tech solutions, specifically particulate filters and SCR catalysts to limit health damaging ultrafine particle and nitrogen oxide as well as short-lived climate pollutant black carbon emissions. This is particularly true for cruise ships which stay 40% of their operational time at berth in port cities where they keep their big engines running 24/7 to generate power supply for hotel and leisure time facilities on board. Accordingly air quality in popular cruise destinations and port cities such as Venice, Dubrovnic or Barcelona suffers from the additional emission loads the cruise ships spew out in the middle of city centres. So it is also the local governments and port authorities who should have a strong interest in limiting emissions from ships and port activities.
Cruise or container ships, ferries, tug or excursion boats – ports gather a broad range of fuming smokestacks, which emit a great deal of air pollutants. Neither ship owners nor port authorities take effective, sufficient and comprehensive measures in order to protect local residents from toxic exhaust gases. mehr →