Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Cruises try to go green

Written by Gérard Tur on Thursday, June 30th 2022 à 18:25 | Read 319 times

Criticized for its environmental nuisance, the cruise industry is adopting technical solutions to limit its impact. Increasingly strict regulations are an effective spur. In the Mediterranean, the extension of the Seca and Pelagos zones will force the most polluting ships out of our sea.

More and more ships, bigger and bigger... the cruise sector is working on its acceptability. Photo GT
More and more ships, bigger and bigger... the cruise sector is working on its acceptability. Photo GT
MEDITERRANEAN. The Euromaritime exhibition, organised by Sogena (Société d'Organisation et de Gestion d'événements Navals) for the Ouest-France/le Marin group, in Marseille from 28 to 30 June, proposed a round table on Thursday 30 June on "passenger transport and luxury cruising in the face of changes in society". This is a hot topic at a time when many cities throughout the Mediterranean are considering following the examples of Venice, Dubrovnik or Palma de Majorca, by limiting the number of ships or cruise passengers, in response to the frustration of local populations with mass tourism and the pollution it causes.
Jean-François Suhas, President of the Marseille Provence Cruise Club, says he is aware of the problem. "We have to adapt, explain and convince people that we are taking action. The acceptability of cruising is a matter of being at sea, on the quay and on land. This is a problem to be considered in its entirety, because poorly controlled, the nuisances concern air and sea pollution, the destruction of the seabed during mooring, noise for local residents but also for marine fauna, and the saturation of tourist sites. "We are faced with major difficulties," says Jean-François Suhas. "But too many people forget that in cities like Marseille, many people live thanks to the port and cruises.  

Finding a new balance

Thierry Duchesne, deputy maritime prefect for the Mediterranean, asks the question of gigantism. "Is this the way forward? Wouldn't it be better to use reasonable-sized ships that are more acceptable to the public? We need to find the right balance because cruising generates significant economic benefits in France, whether in construction or in tourism. Its rejection by some of our fellow citizens should be a cause for alarm.
While the biggest shipowners are betting on excessiveness to improve their profitability, Ponant is playing the human-sized cruise card, with small, modern ships. "I understand that the population is shocked when it sees the black smoke given off by the giant liners at the quayside," stresses Charles Gravatte, General Secretary of the Ponant Group. "We have already reduced our polluting emissions by more than 80% by opting for new fuels and by favouring electrical connections at the quayside (allowing the ships' engines to be switched off during their stopovers).  Of course, the electricity must not be produced by oil-fired generators. "For the time being, we are not yet carbon neutral," regrets Charles Gravatte, "but research is progressing.
Laurène Niamba, head of institutional relations at Armateurs de France, confirms. "In liaison with NGOs, scientists, elected representatives and administrations, shipowners are committed to improving the environmental performance of ships. We are only asking for visibility and for the rules to be the same for everyone. There is a whole range of actions to be implemented: speed optimisation, dockside connections, the use of efficient fuels and many other technical solutions. Here in Marseille, La Méridionale has achieved a world first by using particle filters. We must continue along this path. 

The Pelagos sanctuary will be extended. Photo DR
The Pelagos sanctuary will be extended. Photo DR

Extension of the Seca and Pelagos areas

When shipowners are standing still, or moving very slowly, the public authority must intervene. "I was pleased to see that on 6 June, the port of Nice evicted the Aegean Odyssey because it was considered too polluting (noise and smoke). Cannes refused it and it finally docked in Marseille," says Thierry Duchesne. "Sometimes you have to put people's backs against the wall to get them to act. We receive a lot of complaints from coastal populations about the nuisance caused by ships. Thierry Duchesne warned that his services are mobilising on the problems of noise, atmospheric discharges, but also the destruction of the seabed and light pollution. "The maps of our seabed are worrying. In places like Calvi or the Gulf of Juan les Pins, 30% of the Posidonia meadows have disappeared. Thierry Duchesne announced the extension of the Pelagos sanctuary (maritime area between Italy, Monaco and France for the protection of marine mammals) to the whole of the northern Mediterranean basin and its transformation into a Particularly Vulnerable Sea Area. The noisiest and most polluting ships will be excluded.
Already, the coffers are gradually replacing the ink moorings, which destroy the Posidonia meadows. "We are moving forward at full speed to meet the regulatory constraints," notes Jean-François Suhas. "Ships will have to leave European waters. Moorings will soon only be accepted on trunks and batteries. On land, buses will have to run on electricity. The entire Mediterranean will be in a Seca zone (control of sulphur oxide emissions at 0.1%) in 2025. The world of cruises is changing, globally. Thanks to digital technology, we can manage tourist flows and avoid saturation. In Cassis, we have worked with the town hall to set up a moratorium that limits the number of anchorages, the size of the ships, with only one site where to drop anchor, far from the posidonia meadows. We did the same in La Ciotat.

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