The growth of the cruise market (20 million passengers in 2011, according to the Cruise Lines International Association ) raises the question of how urban ports accommodate liners.
The recent debate surrounding their presence in Venice, and the risks they pose to the lagoon, shows that tensions are fraught.
On average, 600,000 cruise passengers travel to Venice every year. According to the local port authorities, the industry directly employs 5,470 people; keeping them means finding ways of looking after the environment while dealing with economic challenges.
Noise and air pollution are the main priorities
One of the solutions being discussed in Venice is installing power supply systems on land so that ships on a stopover can cut their engines, thereby reducing air pollution.
"Our survey of 122 European ports in 2009 (the results of the latest survey will be published at the end of 2012) shows noise pollution, air pollution and waste treatment as the main priorities among the top 10 environmental protection topics", says Antonis Michail, policy adviser at ESPO (European Sea Ports Organisation).
The organisation has carried out comparative studies of good environmental practice at the various European ports, and these studies are published in the 2012 Green Guide, which will be presented at the GreenPort Congress hosted by ESPO, to be held in Marseilles from 3-5 October 2012.
In terms of combating noise pollution, for example, there are restrictions in place in Nice on ferries arriving late from Corsica, in a bid to reduce the disturbance to local residents.
Improving waste acceptance and treatment on land
Waste treatment was the number-one priority to emerge from the ESPO survey in 2004, but it had fallen to third in 2009. Shipowners have invested in on-board equipment and sorting techniques, thereby reducing the volume of waste that needs to be processed on land, but more needs to be done. In order to prevent pollution at sea, ports must make their waste acceptance systems more accessible and easier to use.
A European directive of 27 November 2000 obliges them to do so, but different ports have different equipment and charge different amounts. Whereas in northern Europe port authorities have significantly improved their facilities, they are falling behind in the Mediterranean ports of southern Europe, despite initiatives, like the one in Civitavecchia, to improve recycling (see the ECC's 2011/12 Annual Report ).
Shipping companies claim that, in future, the best-equipped ports will be first in line when it comes to setting cruise itineraries.