Barcelona tops European list of most polluted cities from large cruise ships

NGO report criticizes “less stringent regulation” of highly polluting fuels from tourist cruisers

The cruise ship 'Symphony of the Seas' in Barcelona in April, 2018. (Photo: Nazaret Romero)
The cruise ship 'Symphony of the Seas' in Barcelona in April, 2018. (Photo: Nazaret Romero) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 5, 2019 12:19 PM

Barcelona is the European city that receives the most pollution from large cruise ships in Europe, according to a study of 50 of the most contaminated port cities on the continent from the NGO Transport & Environment, based in Brussels.

The pollution comes in the form of sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide, two of the biggest pollutants that come from large cruise ships. The Catalan capital topped the list of cities for contamination of both harmful gases.

The study shows how big a tourist destination the Catalan capital is, but it also points out the “less stringent regulations on the limitation” of highly polluting fuels for cruise ships.

The report also warned that Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise operator in the world, polluted more sulfur dioxide emissions than all cars in Europe in 2017.

The case of Barcelona

In Barcelona, the Transport & Environment report explained that the cruise ships emitted between 2-5 times more polluted gases than passenger cars did in 2017.

They estimate that 105 large tourist ships arrived in the port of Barcelona in that year, which indicates more pollution than the capacity of the 550,000 private vehicles registered in the city.

Despite more ships docking in Lisbon, the cruisers stayed in Barcelona for more hours in total, meaning more contamination.

Proposals for change

The Transport & Environment NGO proposes “decarbonizing” the ships, offering the example of a connection to the groundwater network, or by using hydrogen technology to power the cruisers.

“It is necessary for governments to intervene with a mandate that will lead the shipping industry to zero emission standards,” they say.

Ombudsman calls for restrictions

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman called the measures to restrict traffic in the city on certain days of the week that will come into effect in January "a step forward" but not enough to respond to "the climatic emergency" recently announced by the Catalan government.

Talking on World Environment Day on Wednesday, Ombudsman Rafael Ribó presented a report on air quality in Catalonia to parliament, which included a package of suggested measures to reduce pollution.

Among the proposals Ribó put forward is restricting traffic in Barcelona's most polluted areas and imposing a charge for vehicles to enter certain areas of the city and its surroundings. Ribó also called for improvements in the public transport system.

The Ombudsman insisted that neither in Catalonia or Spain as a whole have the issues surrounding climate change been tackled "beyond making grand statements" and he insisted that the country was "lagging behind" in environmental terms.