Cruise ships are an extremely popular part of the global tourism industry and around the world, 24.7 million people take one every year, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. But large ships are one of the dirtiest forms of transportation and mid-sized cruise ship can emit as many emissions every day as 1 million cars. Because they burn heavy oil, they’re also known to foul air quality in port and coastal cities and a new report from Johns Hopkins University has revealed that cruise ships generate so much air pollution that could endanger the health of passengers.
As CNN explained, on the decks of the four Carnival Corp. cruise ships studied over a two-year period, concentrations of particulate matter measured were “comparable to concentrations measured in polluted cities, including Beijing and Santiago,” said Ryan Kennedy, author of the report. Ship exhaust contains harmful constituents, including metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), many of which have toxic, mutagenic and/or carcinogenic properties. The vessels on which Kennedy took measurements were Carnival Liberty sailing from Florida to the Bahamas; Carnival Freedom sailing from Texas to the Caribbean; Holland America MS Amsterdam sailing from Vancouver to Los Angeles; and Princess Cruises Emerald Princess sailing from Los Angeles to Mexico. (Holland American and Princess Cruises are subsidiaries of Carnival Corp.) Without the knowledge of the company or ship staff, Kennedy took measurements using a P-TRAK Ultrafine Particle Counter when the ships were docked as well as when moving at sea.
Why This Matters: It shouldn’t have to take an undercover investigation to reveal the harm that cruise ship passengers are enduring during their vacations. Passengers have a right to know that the air quality they’re breathing isn’t healthy and could aggravate respiratory ailments like asthma. Since cargo shipping giant Maersk announced last year that it wants to achieve zero net emissions by 2050 (which would be a huge step for the shipping industry) perhaps the cruise ship industry needs to make the same commitment and move away from heavy oil use. This is especially necessary as particulate matter emitted from ship engine exhaust may be to blame for tens of thousands of annual deaths from lung and cardiovascular disease.