Concerns Raised over Cruise Ship Pollution

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Concerns Raised over Cruise Ship Pollution

By Zoë Robert
Cruise ship

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

One cruise ship docked in Reykjavík for 24 hours discharges the same amount of nitrogen into the atmosphere as 10,000 cars, according to a recent article published by the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH).

Þorsteinn Svanur Jónsson, a member of the environment committee of the International Association of Ports and Harbors, said in an interview with visir.is that there are no laws in Icelandic jurisdiction on ship exhaust emissions. 

The engines of cruise ships are on around the clock. According to the recent article, a medium-sized cruise ship discharges 1.2 tons of nitrogen every eight hours. In 24 hours, the amount is similar to that emitted by 10,000 cars.

According to Þorsteinn, most cruise ships arriving in Iceland are powered by fuel oil. Several ports around the world have started connecting larger vessels to electricity while at berth. In Þorsteinn’s opinion, Iceland must adopt similar legislation on ship emissions as in neighboring countries. “According to the legislation, in Iceland you can burn fuel oil as you like, you don’t need to have air injection equipment and you don’t need to connect to electricity on land,” he said.

Gísli Gíslason, port captain at Associated Icelandic Ports, said it’s too expensive to use equipment which powers cruise ships by electricity. Gísli points out that the ships are only at berth for a short time and that it’s not currently considered feasible to connect them to electricity on land. “The vast majority of these cruise ships have an environmental strategy and try to burn oil in as environmentally-friendly way as possible,” he said.

Cruise ship passengers on trips to Iceland are expected to pass 100,000 for the first time next year. Ninety cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in Iceland this year with a similar number expected next year. With this number in mind, emissions from cruise ships in Iceland total the equivalent of 900,000 cars for the ships' first 24 hours at berth alone. 

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