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Cruise ship decks twice as polluted as city streets?

July 10, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The deck of a luxury cruise ship on the open ocean is generally thought of as a clean and unspoiled space – yet air pollution there can be twice the level found in central London, and equivalent to levels found in Shanghai and Delhi, new research indicates.

Standing on the deck of the P&O Cruises ship Oceana, downwind of the funnel, investigators from Britain’s Channel 4 television program Dispatches say they found air pollution of 84,000 particles per cubic centimetre.

That’s more than double the 38,400 ultra-fine particles per cubic centimetre found at Piccadilly Circus in the middle of London, and almost 20 times the 4285 particles per cubic centimetre found at one of Britain’s rural resort spots, Camber Sands beach in East Sussex.

Oceana

Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster. Investigators from its popular Dispatches program went undercover on P&O Cruises, Britain’s most popular cruise operator and one of the world’s largest. Investigators cruised on Oceana, formerly Ocean Princess, 261 metres long, regular capacity 2016 passengers. Oceana, built in 1999, is reportedly the fifth largest of eight ships currently in service with P&O Cruises.

The program noted that when operating beyond territorial waters, cruise ships are free of many environmental regulations. Investigators used an infra-red camera to see gases invisible to the naked eye.

Investigators also looked at “particulates” – ultra-fine particles that can penetrate into the depths of the lung. Using a P-Trak ultra-fine particle counter to measure the number of such particulates suspended in the air, Dispatches recorded:

  • 38,400 ultra-fine particulates per cubic centimetre in Piccadilly Circus;
  • 84,000 ultra-fine particulates per cubic centimetre on the deck downwind of, and directly next to, the Oceana’s funnels, double the average found in Central London;
  • An average of 4285 ultra-fine particles per cubic centimetre on the beach at Camber Sands, East Sussex.

Dr Matt Loxham of Southampton University, described by Dispatches as a leading expert on the impact of air pollution caused by shipping on human health, said the levels recorded in some areas of the ship deck were equivalent “to levels you would expect to see in some of the most polluted cities in the world. Shanghai, Delhi and so on…”

The rules covering ships at sea are set by the International Maritime Organisation, which has now agreed to reduce the maximum sulphur content allowed in marine fuels from 3.5% down to 0.5% in 2020 – bringing an end to the use of Heavy Fuel Oil currently in use, the program says.

The report also looks at sewage disposal and other matters.

The program published a response from P&O Cruises owner, Carnival Corporation and Plc, which said that since 2005 the line had reduced its fuel consumption by 28%, with an accompanying reduction in air emissions. Oceana would be fitted with “exhaust gas cleaning systems” which were “installed on 60 ships across its brands… This action significantly improves the quality of air emissions… Soot and particulate matter reductions in excess of 80% have been achieved.”

It is not known when and if the Channel 4 program will be shown in Australia.

Written by Peter Needham

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