Press Release: Air quality in Gibraltar suffers from ships’ emissions

PRESS RELEASE: Air samples taken next to cruise ships in Campo de Gibraltar show high concentrations of ultrafine particles. Members of Ecologistas Ecologistas en Acción supported by experts from Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Union (NABU) found air pollution levels to be up to 140 times higher than in areas with clean air. The measurements were conducted by Dr. Axel Friedrich, a worldwide know expert on air pollution, over the weekend as well as on Friday when different cruise ships visited the city of Gibraltar. The environmentalists criticized that cruise ships in the Mediterranean are allowed to be operated on dirty heavy fuel oil and without any exhaust gas cleaning systems like it is a standard for cars, trucks or even power plants. As a consequence exhaust gases from the ships’ engines contain huge amounts of ultra fine particles as well as carcinogenic air pollutants such as soot which also contribute significantly to climate change.

Antonio Muñoz from Ecologistas en Acción said it was irresponsible of ship owners to pollute the air while visiting the bay of Gibraltar: “Companies like TUI Cruises, Holland America Lines, Thomson Cruises or Princess Cruises and others make a lot of money from cruise tourism. At the same time they reject to spend money on proper exhaust gas technology and therefore accept to put a massive threat to the citizens’ health. We do have a massive air pollution problem here so immediate political action is needed to protect our health, and the environment.”

Malte Siegert transport policy officer at NABU stated: “Not only the people around the Gibraltar Bay are suffering from shipping emissions, we have seen these high concentrations of air pollutants in many different ports cities all over the world. However, this is no excuse for cruise ship operators to go on with their reckless pollution. They have to switch to low sulfur fuels and install particulate filters and nitrogen catalysts in order to limit the amount of harmful emissions to a minimum immediately. Moreover, Gibraltar and Spain should support at least to designate the Mediterranean as a Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) with a maximum of 0,1% sulphur for marine fuels like it is already the case for the North and Baltic Sea. This will significantly improve the air quality in the region and enable the use of emission abatement technology as particle filters.”

In 2017 more than 100,000 vessels passed through the Strait of Gibraltar, this is the second busiest shipping spot of the world, where beside cruise and cargo ships, almost 25 million tons of oil products were shipped or provided for bunkering.

Air pollution from ships is carried hundreds of kilometers inland where it contributes to local air quality problems. Air pollutants from diesel engines like particulate matter, soot, sulphur and nitrogen oxides damage human health, the environment and the climate. Particulate matter for instance is linked to severe health problems like cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including strokes and cancer which can lead to premature death. Figures by the European Commission estimate 50,000 people die prematurely every year in Europe because of the shipping sector’s air pollution in spite of the fact that proper measures are available to fix the problem cost effectively.

Info paper on measurements is available online: www.nabu.de/air-testing

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