Climate and Energy

Amics de la Terra urgently considers limiting giant cruises in Palma

13 June 2016

The controversial “Harmony of the Seas”, supposedly theworld’s largest cruise, will arrive in Palma every Monday from now until October. Its nearly 7000 passengers, equivalent to the municipalities of Artà or Muro, join the 2000 crew members to bring to Palma more people than the entire island of Formentera. Such a wave of people disembark each Monday, and are accompanied by the passengers of other, similar cruises that will be present on the same day in Palma (last year, the city was receiving up to eight cruises simultaneously). These new arrivals will coincide with the thousands of tourists who stay in hotels, apartments and private houses that occupy the center of Palma each day. The cruise ships visit us only in summer when we are already at limited carrying capacity and are often concentrated in the historical center of the city.*

Amics de la Terra considers it urgent to set a limit on the number of large ships visiting simultaneously, so as to not confront the center of Palma with being put at standstill on any given day. Other issues are how to manage the enormous quantity of solid and liquid waste that so many cruises leave behind, as well as the difficulty of providing them the fresh water they need given our already scarce reserves.

Moreover, such large ships are polluting at high levels both during the voyage and during their stay in the port because they need to keep the engines running to produce electricity. A cruise needs thousands of liters per day of fuel oil, a hydrocarbon that is a strong contaminant for its high content of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen, both of which are gases harmful to human health. Once in port, cruise ships typically employ a more refined fuel for legislative obligation but still continue to pollute. A report from the same German experts who revealed the Volkswagen emissions scandal indicates that a large cruise emits the same amount of carbon dioxide as more than 8000 cars and as much sulfur dioxide as several million vehicles. The company Royal Caribbean has stated that their new cruise “Harmony of the Seas” has installed filters to reduce a portion of their sulfur emissions, but they still create pollutants. Given this alarming data of emissions potentially hazardous to one’s health, Amics de la Terra urges the Palma City Council to carry out a thorough control of the emissions that are produced in the port during the stays of these large cruises.

The number of cruise ships visiting Palma increases each year, with a 20% increase in 2015 compared to 2014 and it is expected to increase even more in 2016 largely due to the complicated situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and Northern African countries. Almost 2 million cruise passengers arrived in the Balaeric Islands in 2015, the majority to Palma. In order to accomodate these floating cities, it would be necessary to extend and adapt the piers and the port faciilities, with all the environmental impact that that implies, and similarly to gather the liquid and solid waste generated aboard, which is usually more than 2 kilos of solid waste per day per passenger.

It’s obvious that the cruises bring money to the local economy of Palma, but they also produce significant environmental impacts that can’t be avoided. Because of this, Amics de la Terra urges the relevant authorities to limit the number of ships that can coincide on the same day and urge the Municipality of Palma to control the air emissions in the port. It would also be necessary for the population of Palma to give their opinions about the suitability of this tourism in addition to the conventional tourism, for these are causing one to feel somewhat overwhelmed when visiting the city of Palma.

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