Climate & Energy Blog

Air samples at cruise ship docks worldwide find dangerous levels of deadly soot

Posted Dec. 11, 2013 / Posted by: Adam Russell

Tests in Manhattan, Venice, Germany show urgent need for lines to upgrade pollution controls

NEW YORK – Air samples taken near idling cruise ships in New York and three European ports contained dangerously high levels of soot, according to test results released by Friends of the Earth US and the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union of Germany. The groups said the tests underscore the urgent need to install more modern air pollution reduction technology with filters that can all but eliminate deadly soot emissions.

At each port -- New York, Venice, Italy and Hamburg and Rostok, Germany -- samples taken by NABU with an ultrafine particle counter contained hundreds of thousands of microscopic ultrafine particles of soot per cubic centimeter of air. In New York, the sample contained 201,000 ultrafine particles of soot per cubic centimeter while the cruise ship Norwegian Gem was idling on Nov. 15, 2013. (See video of the test.)

Direct comparison with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency soot standards is not possible, because EPA includes somewhat larger particles, counts their mass rather than their number and measures their concentration over time rather than at peak levels. But the latest research indicates that the health hazards of ultrafine particle pollution, which are inhaled deep into the lungs, are the same as for other particles -- heart problems, respiratory illness and premature death. 

By comparison with the measurements of hundreds of thousands of particles per cubic centimeter at the cruise ship docks, NABU measured only 5,000 particles per cm3 in the center of Berlin. 

“These extremely high measurements at the cruise ship docks are from the use of heavy fuel oil or bunker fuel and lack of pollution control technology,” said Dr. Axel Friedrich, formerly an air quality expert with the German federal environmental agency, who led the testing. “Without particle filters, cruise ship engines must operate continuously at the dock to keep the lights on, releasing huge quantities of toxic gases that harm public health."

Port Date Particulates per cm3 of air
New York City (Manhattan cruise terminal) Nov. 11, 2013 201,000
Venice, Italy Sept. 16, 2013 ≈200,000
Rostock, Germany Aug. 17, 2013 ≈300,000+
Hamburg, Germany July 13, 2013 ≈200,000

NABU and Friends of the Earth are campaigning to get cruise lines worldwide to install state-of-the-art air pollution control technology which can reduce the amount of soot emitted by up to 99 percent. The campaign is focused on Carnival Corp. of Miami, the largest cruise company in the world, which operates 10 cruise lines, under various brand names, in the U.S. and Europe. Although some of Carnival's lines, such as AIDA Cruises of Germany, have installed such equipment, Carnival has not done so for all of its lines and ships.

"It's unacceptable that some Carnival Corporation ships will be installing state-of-the-art air pollution controls, but not the entire fleet," said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director of Friends of the Earth U.S. "It's time for Carnival to stop dragging its feet, not only on the health and safety of its passengers but of people in the ports where it calls. If Carnival cares about people and the planet, the company should install the most health-protective technology on all ships, across all of the lines it operates, to keep the air we breathe clean and healthy."

Leif Miller, CEO of NABU, said the World Health Organization considers soot as carcinogenic as asbestos.

“These measurements now demonstrate for the first time how much worse air pollution in ports is made by the pollution from idling cruise ships,” said Miller. As the cruise industry continued to grow rapidly, this means that every year more and more passengers and residents of port cities are exposed to deadly soot. Since the technology needed to clean up emissions is here today, this is unacceptable.” 

###

Contact:
Marcie Keever, (510) 900-3144, mkeever@foe.org
Adam Russell, (202) 222-0722, arussell@foe.org

« Back to main page

Take action

SAVE THE BEES

Ask the CEO of Lowe’s to stop selling plants pretreated with bee-killing pesticides.

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook