Barcelona and Palma ranked worst in Europe for cruise ship pollution

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Barcelona and Palma ranked worst in Europe for cruise ship pollution
Barcelona is the busiest cruise ship port in Europe and also the most polluted. Photo: AFP

Barcelona has topped the list in a damning report revealing the true extent of pollution caused by cruise ships docking in port.


It is closely followed by Palma in Mallorca.

In fact Spain had four of its ports ranked among the top ten most polluted by cruise ships in a new report from the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E).

Cruise ships emit large amounts of air pollution in the form of NOx (nitrogen oxides), SOx (sulphuroxides) and the so-called PM2.5 particles – also known as fine inhalable particles. 

Air pollution has a damaging effect on health, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes and in Spain an estimated 30,000 deaths a year are blamed on emissions.

But while Spain has made efforts to reduce car emissions, the report reveals that cruise ships, which are being welcomed in even greater numbers each year, are an even worse culprit.  

In 2017, a total of 105 cruise ships docked in Barcelona, spending 8293 hours in port. They caused almost five times the pollution of the city’s fleet of cars where some 558,920 vehicles are registered.

Palma, meanwhile saw 87 ships dock that same year, causing almost 10 times more pollution than all the cars registered in the city.

The ports of Venice, Civitavecchia, Southamption, Lisbon, Marseille and Copenhagen were also named in the top ten worst offenders alongside Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas, both ports in the Canary Islands.


In fact overall Spain suffers the most pollution from cruise ships, receiving 172 vessels in 2017  - more than any other in Europe.

Faig Abbasov, shipping policy manager at T&E, said: “Luxury cruise ships are floating cities powered by some of the dirtiest fuel possible. Cities are rightly banning dirty diesel cars but they’re giving a free pass to cruise companies that spew out toxic fumes that do immeasurable harm both to those on board and on nearby shores. This is unacceptable.“

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