Air Clean Up

What's the Air Like on a Cruise Ship?

Jul 14 2017 Read 590 Times

Many people opt to take an extended cruise with the idea of getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying the fresh air of the ocean. However, a new report from Channel 4 programme Dispatches has put paid to that idea, exposing the level on contamination on board one of the UK’s biggest cruiser lines.

The undercover exposé tracked ultra-fine particles of pollution on a P & O Cruises ship and found that levels of contamination far surpassed that of central London, which has broken EU legal limits for seven years running. In fact, some parts of the ship were as polluted as New Delhi or Beijing, making it as bad as (if not worse) than the most polluted cities in the world.

An undercover operation

In recent years, the introduction of tighter legislation surrounding industrial emissions and an increased spotlight on traffic-related pollution has attempted to address the UK’s terrible air quality problems, but cruise ships have largely gone unnoticed by the mainstream media.

With that in mind, Channel 4 commissioned an undercover investigation into contaminant levels on board the P&O vessel Oceana, which is capable of carrying in excess of 2,000 passengers and almost a thousand crew members. Using a P-Trak ultra-fine particle counter, the team uncovered some rather unsettling results.

On average, the air on deck downwind of the ship’s funnels was found to contain 84,000 particles per cm3, while those levels soared up to a whopping 226,000 particles per cm3 when placed directly outside the funnels. For context, the average reading recorded at Piccadilly Circus (also using the P-Trak counter) was just 38,400 particles per cm3 – itself an already unhealthy concentration.

“As much particulate matter as a million cars”

The results were interpreted by Daniel Rieger, a member of the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), who said they made for some pretty dismal reading. “Ships cause not only greenhouse gas emissions, but also sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter,” he explained. “Per day one cruise ship emits as much particulate matter as a million cars. So 30 cruise ships pollute as much as all the cars in the United Kingdom.”

That’s a particularly disconcerting discovery when you take into account that two million Britons travel by cruise ship per year, and that a significant proportion of them spend a large amount of their time sunbathing on deck where air quality is at its most dangerous.

Meanwhile, there are also concerns that cruise ship emissions could exacerbate the already catastrophic levels of pollution found on the UK mainland, as well. Plans for a new wharf at Greenwich in London have sparked concerns that the capital will suffer from even poorer air quality than it already does as a necessary consequence of the wharf’s construction.


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