SMOKE: Cruise ship coming into Palma port

PALMA is among the five most polluted ports in Europe.

An alarming study has found that the huge number of cruise ships that visit the city are leaving an indelible mark on the environment.

The Mallorca capital joins Barcelona, Venice, Civitavecchia and Southampton in being crowned the most polluting ports on the continent.

The research, published by green group Ecologistas en Accion, examined air pollution in ports with high levels of passenger ships.

Carnival cruise ships – which number nearly 30 in total – are the worst offenders, producing more than 10 times as much toxic sulphur dioxide as all the cars in Europe combined.

The report comes just days after the company agreed to pay a $20m (€17m) fine and undertake increased monitoring after it continued to dump sewage and plastic waste in the sea.

WORST OFFENDER: Carnival cruise operator

The company, the world’s largest cruise operator, is also guilty of leaking gas and dirty water and falsifying records of incidents in the US.

The Florida-based company, which controls 50% of the global market, claimed in a statement: “Carnival remains committed to environmental excellence and protecting the environment in which we live, work and travel.

“Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises, founded in Norway, but also based in Florida, is the second most polluting fleet globally.

According to the latest study, Spain, Italy and Greece are the countries most exposed to pollution from emissions of sulphur dioxide.

This is mainly because they are important tourist destinations, but also because they ‘have less stringent regulations on the limitation of sulphur in marine fuels.’

Another problem in ports is that marine fossil fuel is not taxed, while shore-side electricity is under a 2003 EU energy tax directive.

It makes it cheaper for ships to run the electricity needed for their restaurants and on-ship entertainment by burning fuel while docked.

Not enough European ports have invested in shore-side electricity infrastructure.

EMISSIONS: Cruises compared with all European cars (Credit @transenv)

This includes Gibraltar, which also particularly suffers from the arrival of cruise ships, plus the hundreds that sail past the Straits each year.

Policy director of European campaigning group Transport & Environment, Faig Abbasov, explained: “Cruise ships are floating cities with a high consumption of energy generated by the most toxic fuels that exist.

“While cities are prohibiting the circulation of diesel cars to reduce the air pollution, they are giving free rein to the shipping companies, which cause large concentrations of pollutants with a high risk to the health of passengers and the nearest populations.”

While new EU regulations will limit the amount of sulphur dioxide emitted by ships from next year, emissions will still remain much larger than the 260 million cars in Europe.

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