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Environmental Concerns

Air Pollution from Cruise Ships

(See endnotes 31, 32, 33, and Chapter 2, “Air Quality (Outdoor [Ambient] and Indoor)”)

Cruise ships as well as other ships are a prime source of air pollutants in ports and in the bodies of water. Most oceangoing ships are not registered in the United States and may not even buy their fuel here. Although modest controls for pollutants have been established internationally in the MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) agreement, they were very modest and still allowed substantial air pollutants to be released. For instance, the bunker fuel used in ships contains 27,000 ppm of sulfur, which is 2000 times as much as that allowed for trucks on US roads. Oceangoing ships are among the largest sources of nitrogen oxides being emitted to the air. Some 70% of the emissions of sulfur oxides typically come from ships. Particulates are also a very serious problem. Cruise ships may produce black carbon, a pollutant from the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, which is totally banned in the United States. MARPOL Annex VI limits the sulfur content of fuel to 45,000 ppm, whereas highway diesel fuel in the United States is limited to 15 ppm. In certain special areas, the level of sulfur dioxide is limited to 15,000 ppm, which is way beyond that which is acceptable. Nitrogen oxide levels for new engines and engines that have been renovated have to limit emissions to a range 20 times as great as that of electrical power plants in the Eastern United States. The agreement does regulate the emissions of volatile organic compounds, prohibits the emissions of ozone-depleting substances, and prohibits the incineration on ships of polychlorinated biphenyls. Even California, which has the most stringent rules in the country, still allows 1000 ppm of sulfur in the fuels. Obviously there is an enormous public health risk involved in breathing in these air pollutants and they contribute to extremely poor health as well as the death of some individuals. They also may affect the amount of ozone that is present near the ground. In the immediate vicinity of ports, there may be residential neighborhoods, schools, and playgrounds which would make individuals in them highly susceptible to the pollutants created by the cruise ships.

 
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