Members of Ocean Rebellion highlighted the damage and pollution caused by cruise ships in Torbay. Activists paddled out in kayaks to the Marella Explorer 2, belonging to the TUI line, to make their point. It was one of three off Torbay (with several more further out to sea and off Teignmouth). The Torbay Harbour Master was in attendance accompanied by police from Falmouth, who are preparing for protests at the G7 meeting in St Ives in June.
10 or more
Colin Moore, a retired teacher was one of the activists and told the PRSD: “There have sometimes been 10 or more cruise ships off South Devon shores at the same time in recent months. Most people have a rather romantic view of cruise liners, perhaps based on films such as Titanic and following prolific advertising.
Worse than a city of vehicle exhaust
“There has been talk of welcoming them back to Torbay on a regular basis, but modern cruise liners are far bigger than the iconic Titanic and the pollution they cause can have serious health consequences. It’s bad enough that a person’s carbon footprint rises at least three times while on a cruise, but what is less well known is that the fumes from the biggest of them is worse than a whole city’s worth of vehicle exhaust.”
The cruise ships are parked in the Bay due to Covid restrictions where they find a safe anchor from the prevailing westerly winds. Although there is only a skeleton crew on board, the ships must have all their lights on at night for “safety reasons” thus using around 35% of fuel normally needed and causing light pollution as well.
The ships need to move from port to port in order to run their engines and dispose of waste from time to time. Whilst in the Bay there have been incidents of anchor drag in high winds which can cause serious damage to the sea bed affecting fragile marine habitat. The Marella Explorer 2 lost its anchor in Torbay during the extreme weather in January according to the harbour master’s log.
“The particulate pollution from the heavy oil used as fuel by just one cruise ship can be as much as a million cars,” said Colin. “That is normally emitted on the open sea, but when you have more than 10 of these ships in and around a coastal population like Torbay air quality deteriorates, particularly in light onshore winds.
“One of the biggest problems is the levels of nitrogen oxide and sulphur which has been linked to higher rates of cancer and respiratory disease,” he said.
“There are regulations on emissions in place within the 12 mile limit to reduce toxins and the cruise industry use “scrubbers” to make their fuel come within standards but then dump those same toxins directly in the sea. This contributes to the ocean’s wider problems such as the build up of toxins in marine life which seriously affect some local species’ ability to survive.
“These ships also contribute to ocean acidification which has serious effects on marine life all around the planet. All this puts further pressure on the fragile ocean ecosystems which we now know to be one of the most important carbon sinks for the planet. This basically means we have to stop using the sea as an inexhaustible dump and start seeing it as a crucial part of the systems that keep life on this planet viable. If we do not change direction urgently that viability is looking increasingly and rapidly under threat!” he added.
Ocean Rebellion have demanded that the shipping industry switch to the cleaner distillate fuel.
Helen, another kayaker at the action, said: “If this country, and indeed the nations of the world, are serious about keeping the CO2 footprint to within safe limits, these cruise ships should be scrapped and better more eco-friendly means of having a good relaxing holiday should be developed.
“Torbay could still be an attractive holiday destination supporting the local economy, but it could do so in ways which mean the ocean around Torbay and indeed the rest of the world, would not suffer as a result.
Climate Change Conference
“With the UK joint-hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November more people than ever will be aware of the need to protect the environment and Torbay needs to reflect that change.
“But, whatever the case, people who live near the coast where these cruise ships anchor should know about the more immediate danger to their health from particulate pollution. This is the small black soot particles that have been restricted in London under ULEZ rules.
Banned in Venice
“Venice has banned cruise ships for this reason and because of increased frequency of collisions and other cities, like Barcelona, are considering doing the same. They are doing it for their citizens’ health but these ships should be banned from going anywhere, especially the Arctic and Antarctic regions where the soot darkens the ice and snow and accelerates melting. All this so that very few people can have “the holiday of a lifetime” at the expense of a viable future for all of our children? This dream that many chase has to be seen as the nightmare that it truly is.”
Another kayaking activist Paul said: “It felt great to be part of a group doing something positive for the oceans when there is so much bad news. After we got back to shore we joined other protestors on the beach and I noticed the reaction from the public was remarkably supportitive! It really feels as if the tide is turning in our favour with more and more people becoming aware of these important issues! The whole thing was exhilarating!”
The kayak action was followed by a protest on Torre Abbey beach with other Ocean Rebels in costume with banners and flags. The protestors back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill which now has the support of over 100 MPs.
Paul suggested that people write to their MPs and urge them to get behind this proposed legislation which can effectively meet the enormous challenge we face today!
Ocean Rebellion website: https://oceanrebellion.earth/
Ocean Rebellion South Devon and Torbay: https://ocean-rebellion-south-devon-and-torbay.mailchimpsites.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Uncoveringthehidden
Photographs courtesy of Chris Dance.
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