Cruise ships are known for limbo, shrimp cocktails, and luxury accommodations.
But from the environment’s perspective, they’re known for staggering pollution.
This week, a German environmental group called Nabu released a ranking of the Europe’s cruise ships based on their eco-friendliness.
The report was not flattering.
“Pollution from the cruise ship industry is still massive, despite claims newer vessels are clean and green,” the report read. “No company comes recommended in NABU’s 2017 cruise ship rankings, which show just how little progress companies have made towards cutting pollution.”
Nabu claims that all of the vessels are powered by heavy fuel oil, a sludgy tar-like fuel that produces noxious fumes when burned that can harm not only passengers of the cruise, but all those in the vicinity of the ship, while greatly accelerating climate change.
Estimates from Nabu put the average fuel usage of each of these ships at 150 tons of fuel a day, which releases as much particulate matter into the air as about 1 million automobiles each day.
To make matters worse, many of the companies operating the vessels have failed to install soot filters that would at least marginally improve the environmental impact of their massive fuel combustion.
Filters would help to capture some of the fine particulates that are released when the diesel engines burn fuel, thereby preventing them from escaping into the atmosphere. However, of the 23 ships that the industry claimed would be equipped with this technology, not a single one of them is operational.
The EU based non-profit Transport and Environment, which advocates for cleaner means of transportation in Europe, reports that pollution from the shipping industry causes about 50,000 premature deaths and costs over €58 billion per year.
Cruise ships also devastate oceans when they dump raw sewage from their passengers. A 2014 study by the non-governmental environmental agency Friends of the Earth estimated that the entire industry dumps over 1 billion gallons of sewage yearly.
Devastating statistics like these have caused some cities and local governments to take action to protecting their residents from the harmful effects of cruise ship pollution.
In 2016, the Australian government passed a measure that would force cruise ships at berth to reduce their emissions when in the famous Sydney Harbour.
Similarly, Londoners fought the expansion of a cruise ship port because they feared it would increase pollution from the dedicated docking station.
Powerful cities like London and Sydney may have some bargaining power that allows them to negotiate with massive cruise liner companies.
In less affluent countries that are popular as cruise ship destinations, however, residents will likely suffer more when cruise ships that failed to improve their pollution levels dock in cities reliant on tourism dollars.