Cruise ships are responsible for significant emissions of SO2 and NOx along European coasts. Photo: © Shutterstock – joachim affeldt

Cruise ships poison the air

Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest luxury cruise operator, emitted nearly 10 times more harmful sulphur dioxide (SO2) around European coasts than did all 260 million EU passenger cars in 2017, according to a new analysis by Transport & Environment. Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world’s second largest cruise operator, emitted four times the SO2 of the EU car fleet.

In absolute terms, Spain, Italy and Greece, closely followed by France and Norway, are the countries most exposed to SO2 air pollution from cruise vessels, while Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Venice are the most impacted European port cities, followed by Civitavecchia (Rome) and Southampton.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from cruise ships in European seas – equivalent to about 15 per cent of the NOx emitted by Europe’s passenger car fleet in a year – also heavily impact some cities.

T&E recommends that the EU should implement a zero-emission port standard as soon as possible, and then extend it to other ship types. Emission control areas (ECAs), currently in place only in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, should be extended to the rest of the European seas. NOx emissions from existing ships should also be regulated. Furthermore, the report recommends turning low-emission control areas into zero-emission control areas to equally address air pollution and GHG emissions.

T&E’s shipping policy manager, Faig Abbasov, said: “There are enough mature technologies to clean up cruise ships. Shore-side electricity can help cut in-port emissions, batteries are a solution for shorter distances and hydrogen technology can power even the biggest cruise ships.

The cruise sector is apparently not willing to make the shift voluntarily, so we need governments to step in and mandate zero-emission standards.”

Source: T&E press release, 4 June 2019.
Link to the report:
See also the “Cruise Ship Ranking” by the German Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) at:


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