There is only one cruise ship in the entire world that isn’t powered by polluting fuel oil, according to a new inventory drawn up by the German nature organisation NABU. Even with the latest ships, shipbuilders do nothing to reduce emissions.

The one exception to the rule is the AIDAnova, which runs on liquefied natural gas. LNG is not a green fuel, but pollutes a lot less than fuel oil. Despite the fact that the rules for fuel oil are being tightened, with sulphur content limited to 0.1 in some areas, ship operators are obviously blind to the need to build cleaner ships.


Every year, NABU (Naturschutzbund Deutschland) ranks the most polluting and least polluting cruise ships. This year they checked 76 ships, only one of which managed a more or less positive result. In recent years, there has been some light at the end of the tunnel: in 2016, for example, one ship had a system that cleans the exhaust fumes of the ship, reducing air pollution. However, the vast majority of ships were very polluting, and nothing has changed in 2018.

The NABU’s cruise ship ranking. Just one ship was awarded four green propellers, the rest scored red.


NABU doesn’t expect things to change unless port cities take action. Norway has prohibited cruise ships from sailing in the vicinity of certain fjords. The German nature organisation hopes that more countries and cities will impose such local bans, and force cruise companies and shipbuilders to change.


LNG is not very popular yet, but it is considered a slightly greener alternative for ships. There is a Dutch cargo ship powered by LNG. In Germany, a prototype of an electric cargo ship is being developed, which is planned for completion in 2019. It uses batteries and fuel cells with hydrogen as a source of energy. On the high seas, this technology is still too complicated to use because of the number of batteries needed.


Cruise ships cause much more pollution than many people think, because they are continuously emitting large amounts of CO2 when taking passengers from one port to another. As a result, a two-week cruise on an average cruise ship results in CO2 emissions equivalent to flying from Europe to San Francisco and back. In addition, cruise ships cause a lot of air pollution because they burn fuel oil, which is much dirtier in terms of particulates and NOx than aviation fuel.

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Photo: HenSti

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