Cruise brands run by Carnival Corporation emitted 10 times more cancer-causing gases in Europe than all of the continent’s passenger vehicles combined, according to data released on Wednesday.
A study of 203 cruise ships at sail in Europe in 2017, carried out by the European think-tank Transport & Environment, found that of the 20 most polluting cruise ship lines, seven were operated by Carnival-owned brands. In total cruise lines emitted more than 60 kilotonnes of sulphur dioxide, a cause of acid rain and lung cancer.
The report comes just days after Carnival agreed to pay a $20m fine and undertake increased monitoring after it was found to still be dumping sewage and plastic waste, leaking gas and dirty water and falsifying records of incidents.
In 2016 the company pleaded guilty to dumping oily waste from its Princess Line ships, and was fined $40m and put on a five-year probation but on Monday it admitted to violating that probation in a Miami court.
Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived
Faig Abbasov, shipping policy manager at Transport & Environment, said cruises were “a public-facing segment and their image and reputation with customers should matter. But customers themselves don’t know that they are facing such a huge amount of air pollution when they think they’ve got away from the city.”
Sulphur dioxide emissions from cars was 3.2m kt versus 62m kt from cruise ships, with Carnival accounting for half that, the study found.
The shipping industry has come under increasing scrutiny for its environmental record in recent years ahead of new regulations that will limit the amount of sulphur dioxide emitted by ships, set to come into force in 2020.
But Mr Abbasov said that even once the new sulphur standards have been enforced, cruise ship emissions will still remain considerably larger than those of the more than 260m cars in Europe.
“The irony is that Trump’s US is better protected from ships than this ambitious Europe,” he said.
The entire US coastline is covered by a sulphur emission control area, while in Europe only the Baltic and North Seas have such protected status. The US also has more stringent nitrogen oxide emission regulation.
The study further measured the impact of cruise ships when in port.
It found that Barcelona, Palma Mallorca and Venice were the worst affected by sulphur dioxide emissions, adding that countries in the Mediterranean basin had the highest levels of sulphur dioxide from cruise ships due to both being a tourist hub and not being in a protected zone.
Mr Abbasov said that European regulation of the industry was too fragmented and that international rules would only apply to new ships.
Part of the problem in ports is that marine fossil fuel is not taxed, while shore-side electricity is under a 2003 EU energy tax directive, making it cheaper for ships to run the electricity needed for their restaurants and on-ship entertainment by burning fuel when in port. Few European ports or ships have invested in shore-side electricity infrastructure.
Carnival is the world’s largest cruise operator with nearly 50 per cent of market share across nine brands.
The FTSE 100-listed company said in a statement: “Carnival Corporation remains committed to environmental excellence and protecting the environment in which we live, work and travel. Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited . All rights reserved. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.