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In France, the cruise industry continues its meteoric growth. The number of cruise passengers has doubled in ten years, going from 2.1 million in 2009 to 4.5 million in 2019, or +7.9% on average each year [1]. Marseille remains the leading French port in this area, with 1.8 million cruise passengers in 2019.

The anachronism of cruises

At a time when the effects of climate change are already destructive and scientists unanimously warn of the urgency to act [2], certain dinosaurs are doing wonderfully: shipowners are still having fun breaking records of excess.

When the collective was born in 2022 in Marseille, we saw the Wonder Of the Seas arrive, every Tuesday for 6 months, which was then the largest cruise liner in the world (Figure 1) with its 362 m length. (more than half of the Old Port) and its 230,000 tonnes. The extravagance of its equipment is enough to understand the aberration of this building which lugs around and fuels surfing simulators, ice rinks, theaters, casino, climbing walls, shops, swimming pools (15!), whirlpools (10!) ), giant water slides, walks, mini golf, sports fields, laser game, zip line, 20 restaurants, 35 bars (including the Bionic Bar, known for its dancing robot bartenders) and the cherry on the cake: a Central Park and its “ lush vegetation”.

Totally disconnected from ecological issues, the shipowner Royal Caribbean broke its own record for excess in 2023 by releasing the Icon of the Seas… And unfortunately this American company is no exception: at the end of 2022, the Italian-Swiss company MSC has took advantage of the World Cup in Qatar to inaugurate its World Europa, of similar gigantism. The Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, in the same competitive logic, offers karting tracks on two or three levels on several of its ships.

In a context of devastating ecological crises, the absurdity of this type of building and the cynicism of those who still defend this industry should no longer need to be demonstrated. However, this sector is booming and no public policy is seriously implemented in Marseille or elsewhere to slow it down.

This is why we have set up a collective of committed residents and activists in Marseille to fight locally and globally against this industry and provide information on the damage it causes.

This argument aims to shed light on the demands we make by presenting the deleterious effects of cruises, then the false solutions put forward by the industry and lobbies and finally the state of play of policies and regulations around the Mediterranean and in Marseille.

1. Air pollution

Heavy fuel oil: this is the residue remaining at the bottom of the tank after the refining of crude oil. Very thick and concentrated in harmful substances, it is difficult to find an outlet for it. Boats plying the seas are authorized to use this fuel, which is very harmful to the air [5] and the sea, in particular with the emission of sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides ( NOx) and fine particles.

Respiratory, heart and lung diseases [6], cancers [7] but also worsening asthma and allergies are due to these pollutants present in the air which can no longer be underestimated. We now also know that fine particles migrate into the placenta of pregnant women, with obvious harmful consequences for the physical and neuronal development of unborn babies [8] .

In the PACA region, all residents are exposed to concentrations exceeding the threshold values recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for fine particles [9].

Regulations on emissions from the maritime sector are limited. At the global level, only sulfur oxide emissions are limited under the MARPOL Convention (MARine POLlution): the maximum SOx content at the chimney outlet increased to 3.5% in 2012 and to 0.5% in 2020 (which remains 500 times higher than what is authorized for diesel cars).

Furthermore, there are currently 4 geographical areas where these emissions of SOx, NOx and fine particles are limited:

NECA zones (limit of 0.1% SOx and engines meeting the Tier3 standard for NOx): Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel;

SECA zones (limit of 0.1% SOx): North America, Caribbean.

The Mediterranean will move into the SECA zone from 2025. In the meantime, since 2016, a European law has required all ships remaining at dock for more than two hours to use 0.1% sulfur diesel. For this pollutant, a cruise ship docked in Marseille – therefore which does not use its engines for propulsion but only to run the equipment on board – still emits the equivalent of 30,000 vehicles traveling at 30 km/h [10] and this continuously during the 8 to 10 hours it remains at the dock.

Boat smoke has the particularity of emitting a large proportion of fine and ultrafine particles, which will enter deep into our respiratory system, cross blood barriers and spread throughout our body and organs.

According to reports from Atmosud (Association approved by the Ministry of the Environment for monitoring air quality), in Marseille, maritime traffic represents up to 50% of Nox emissions, making it the first emitter ahead of road traffic for this compound (30%), and 1/3 of the port’s emissions are linked to cruise activity [11]. On the front line facing this pollution: the residents of the neighborhoods bordering the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille (GPMM) to the north of Marseille (La Calade, Saint-Henri, Saint-André, l’Estaque, etc.) who filed the 1st March 2023 a collective criminal complaint for endangering the lives of others.

Press conference during the filing of a collective criminal complaint on the 1st
March 2020

2. Sea pollution

Ships discharges the water of the seas and oceans as well as the organizations that live there in several titles [12]:

Rejections of gray water and wastewater

Rejections of gray waters (dishes, shower, etc.), “treated” wastewater and pulp foods, are allowed to more than 12 sea miles from the earth.

Ships of 4,000 passengers produce more than 1.5 million liters of gray waters each day [13]. Wastewater must legally be crushed and disinfected before being rejected, but studies show that very few purification stations are in accordance and that the majority rejects “practically untreated raw wastewater” [14] .

These discharges lead to pollution linked to the presence of nutrients of viruses and bacteria, microplastics (washing of textiles, etc.).

Hydrocarbon releases (holder)

Satellite data suggest that illegal discharges are commonplace [15], thus 90% of hydrocarbons poured by ships are allocated to the illegal and deliberate spill of hydrocarbon residues from routine operations (and not large catastrophes of black tides). The proceedings are rare and the sanctions negligible [14].

These discharges cause pollution linked to the presence of oils and other hydrocarbons, bacteria and invasive species.

Solid waste

Solid waste is an increasing problem. Waste management practices on cruise ships often derogate from the basic technical conditions for the elimination of municipal and dangerous waste, leading emissions of dangerous substances such as dioxins (by incineration), floating macrodechets and microphones and microphones and microphones and microphones and microphones and microphones and microphones and microphones and microphones and microphones Nano plastics, affecting marine fauna [16]. Each passenger in a cruise ship produces on average 4 kilos of solid waste each day: this would mean that a cruise ship transporting 2,000 people would produce 8 tonnes of solid waste per day [16]. [16].

Direct fauna disturbance

The ships also lead to direct disturbances of fauna collision, noise and luminous nuisances.

The common Rorquals and sperm whales northwest of the Mediterranean are classified as threatened on the Red List of the IUCN, the population of common Rorquals having recently been evaluated at approximately 1,800 adults only, half of what was previously estimated. The main cause of mortality due to human activity is the collision with ships [17].

Along the sea routes, the sound landscape has multiplied by 32. Continuous noise at low frequency issued by ships overlap of the frequency ranges used by various marine species, interfering with their communication and their behavior. OMI directives on noise reduction are not compulsory.

Antisalissue coverings

The antisalissue coverings implemented on the hulls contain high concentrations of biocides, which can have serious consequences for marine organizations [18] [19] [20].

Smoke spinoffs and rejection of smoke washers (called scrubbers)

The fallout from smoke and, since 2020, direct discharges of very large quantities of water polluted by the use of smoke “washers”: scrubbers cause pollution with heavy metals and HAP and contribute to acidification of the oceans ( See part 7 concerning “smoke washers” or “scrubbers”).

Unambitious and commonly overwhelmed standards

According to Oceana [21]: “A large part of international legislation on the spill of waste at sea by ships was drawn up during the decades where cruise ships constituted a fairly insignificant part of maritime traffic. The growth of the cruise industry has not been followed by suitable legislation, all the more so in international waters where standards and controls are less strict.

The experience of Alaska, the only jurisdiction in the world whose discharges from cruise ships are monitored by an independent on -board staff (Ocean Ranger program) highlighted the banality of the rules (already uncompromising) and the non-compliance with rejection standards [22].

In Marseille, the associations CAP in the North and Alternatiba have joined the residents of the districts impacted to file a complaint for damage to the environment and ecocide crime because of these damages and in particular discharges of scrubbers mentioned in part 7.

3. Climate change

Légende toto

Cruise ships, by their operation but also their manufacture, maintenance and dementally, consume large amounts of fossil fuel.

Thus the cruises participate in global warming. For example, an 8 -day trip aboard a cruise ship, in a standard suite for two people with 4 days on the dock, represents a carbon footprint of 2.2 tonnes of equivalent C02 per person [23] . However, to respect the Paris agreements, this carbon footprint should not exceed the 2 tonnes of equivalent C02 per person and per year [23]. A single cruise trip is therefore equivalent to the annual carbon balance sheet of which each has.

If we compare journeys of the same distance, a cruise displays a carbon footprint by passenger similar to a plane trip [24]. Without forgetting the fact that many cruise passengers go back and forth to the port by plane.

In view of the challenge posed by climate change, adaptation efforts will always be insufficient. The new luxury cruise roads intended for the visit of the poles are in this capacity of cynicism [25]: areas already disasterited by warming are now open to a tourist activity aggravating this destruction.

Advertising for luxury cruises Ponant

As evidenced by the scientist J. Rockstrom [26], the B & L Evolution design office [27] or the IPCC [28], warming of the atmosphere is an existential problem for the world as we know him.

The observation of scientists specializing in the climate issue is clear. Emergency measures must be taken and the cruise model is not compatible with this requirement. According to Wolfgang Cramer, ecologist, geographer, research director at CNRS contributing since 1995 to the IPCC [2]: “We must find ways to reduce to zero, as quickly as possible, all activities that generate CO2, from methane or other greenhouse gases. Our calculations show that this reduction must be at least 6% each year from now on – otherwise we will not respect the Paris agreement. With regard to cruise boats, the solutions currently offered by shipowners, such as the replacement of fuel oil with liquefied natural gas, do not meet the need to drastically reduce emissions. […].

The region is faced with a triple threat [heat wave, droughts, sea level elevation]. From an economic point of view, these risks will lead to serious problems for all commercial activities in the region, including tourism, including the economic model of cruise ships. »»

4. Resource consumption

Beyond its climate repercussions, the cruise industry is engulfed large quantities of resources.

Fuel consumption

By taking into account the 53 largest ships in activity in the world, and considering that they perform 8 days of cruise with 48 hours at the platform, their theoretical consumption would be 64,600 t of fuel over 8 days [29] , or 40 % of the entire fuel consumed by all motorists in France during these 8 days [30] [31].

By smoothing over the year, in 2019, the 112 largest cruise ships in the world consumed 2 million tonnes of fuel, or 1/4 of what the entire French car park consumed that year [32].

Consumption of electricity

Based on the experience of the port of Copenhagen, receiving ships of similar size in Marseille, the reception of a quay cruise ship requires installed power from 7 to 11 MW [33]. This represents, according to this same document, the average consumption of 27,000 households over the length of stay. Another example, when the Carnival Triumph cruise ship starts its engines, it consumes as much energy as the needs of 70,000 households [34].

The question of fuel and electricity therefore poses the following problem: in a context of energy shortage and price increase [35], our society can accept that so many resources are consumed for this activity ?

Material consumption

Cruise ships are equipped with a multitude of electronic devices drawing from the (finished) resources of elements on Earth. Thus, the construction of cruise ships is an additional – and dispensable – level – in the deadly production of electronic equipment which will pollute airs, soils and humans [36].

Steel consumption is also gigantic. The 10 largest cruise ships weigh almost 2 million tonnes together, the equivalent of 194 Eiffel Tours [37]. With a fleet of around 323 ships in 2021 [38], it is a huge amount of materials that had to be extracted, transforming, shaping, maintaining but also dismantling.

Bad deconstruction conditions

The deconstruction of these boats is most often done under conditions more than adapting to the environment and workers. To bypass European regulations, many European shipowners use a spinning of their ship for reimmation in a state without environmental standards. The Robin des Bois association denounces a practice that is “the norm and not the exception” [39]. Although sectors are emerging in France, they struggle to develop in this context [40].

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform follows the course of cruise ships at the end of life [41]. Many are still in 2023 stranded on beaches in South Asia is to be disassembled by hand, without any precaution for the environment and safety of workers – often exploited migrants, some of whom are children. We count dozens of deaths each year on these sites, not to mention diseases linked to exposure to toxic substances without any protection [42].

5. What is the economic impact on local communities ?

The economic model of cruises

The analysis of the economic model of cruises allows at first glance to qualify the link which links this industry to the territories which receive these boats. Indeed, the majority of cruises are based on offers including any service (therefore no interest in consuming in the cities of stopovers), constituting a destination in itself. The profitability of the ship is increased by additional paid services (bars, nightclubs, rinks, cinemas, etc.) and optimization of spending in ports [43].

Thus, a cruise company with any interest at 1) Encourage spending by passengers within its ship, to the detriment of stopovers 2) promote competition between reception ports to reduce costs. This places ports in a disadvantageous situation to the point of considering them as a “poor parent” of the activity [44].

In addition, the rare studies on the economic benefits of cruise ships are carried out by actors dependent on this sector according to the least opaque methods. Thus in Marseille, the only studies available are carried out by the “cruise club” and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They advance 310 million euros in fallout for 2016 on Marseille territory, and 2,000 direct and indirect jobs; Without specifying the method of obtaining this data [45].

Bauke Visser, professor of economics at the University of Rotterdam has drawn up an economic assessment of its cruises in the Netherlands and affirms that economic benefits are lower than costs induced by greenhouse gas emissions and pollution of the ‘Air [46].

In addition to health costs, communities spend money to build infrastructure to accommodate these ships. As such, the southern region invests 40 million euros in the electrification of the quays over the period 2017-2025 in Marseille, Nice and Toulon [45] (cf. part 10): a private activity obliges the public authorities to compensate for its pollution. The “polluter pays” principle is not respected.

The design of ships and direct jobs caused by the cruise industry are not sufficient arguments to get this economic model accepted. The ecological crisis is in itself an opportunity to create a multitude of jobs: ADEME estimates that 340,000 positions will be created by 2035 and 900,000 in 2050 [47], despite the decreases observed in other sectors. The 19,973 French jobs put forward by the “cruise club” can therefore be redirected within the framework of the imperative ecological transition of our societies [48]. This is a political choice to orient the economic activity of our territory, which must necessarily be accompanied by an important training work to support the professional transition of employees.

Consequently, the link between cruising enterprise and stopover cities is more of the order of the submission of the territory, in a context of competition between communities and private interests, than an equal discussion [49].

A tourism model that changes host towns [50]

The tourism of a territory is often presented by its promoters as an opportunity to be able to enrich themselves and create jobs. However, over-tourism has obvious social implications, but never discussed.

Tourist attendance modifies the most emblematic districts of a city and tends to homogenize the territories, to remove the soul from certain districts which become Disney-Land, in addition to various nuisances for the inhabitants (occupation of streets, traffic jam, traffic jam noise and visual nuisance …). For Barcelona or Marseille this applies to a few districts (the old port or the basket), where shops, restaurants and infrastructure are increasingly adapted to tourists and no longer meet the needs of the locals, but it can apply on the scale of all, smaller cities visited by cruises like Venice or Dubrovnik.

Tourism increases prices. The infrastructure dimensioned to be able to accommodate visitors are carried out and maintained at the expense of the local population, tourism generates a trade of new superfluous products, or which had previously had no market value.

For example, in Barcelona, or in Corsica of the refreshment factories of seawater are built at the expense of the inhabitants to absorb consumption peaks in summer linked to the concomitance of hot weather and very strong tourism pressure. In addition, the development of the cruise was accompanied by the increase in air traffic due to the many cruise workers coming to take their boat by plane.

In cities at the head of the line like Marseille or Barcelona, cruises can increase BNB air requests, whose deleterious aspects are now well known and documented: apartment development, or even buildings exclusively dedicated to short -term location , in addition to the nuisance in the vicinity, entered an increase in the prices of rents and greatly complicate access to housing to the inhabitants themselves.

It is therefore a double penalty for the inhabitants of the affected cities which undergo the nuisance of these infrastructures and which support the costs.

Tourism transforms any object and objective – equipment or not – into goods. King money changes human and social relations. He transforms hospitality into a service provision and each skills and skills in a potential market value to be exploited.

The tourism sector is also vulnerable, and with it all the people who depend on it. The Pandemic of Covid-19 reminded us of it. We are talking about 62 million jobs destroyed worldwide in 2020, the first affected of which were seasonal workers.

6. Cruise companies that bypass the rules

An administrative complexity that places above laws …

The corporate structures of cruising companies are dispersed on several countries and tax havens in order to escape the legislation on labor, tax, environmental controls, etc.

A survey by the Univén Noticias newspaper, relayed by Courrier International, shows that the 266 cruise ships studied are registered in 23 different countries. Nevertheless, four pavilions (Bahamas, Panama, Bermuda and Malta) alone concentrate 70 % of the ships studied. One of the first advantages of this administrative burst is to play with registration on ships and constraints that result from it.

… Including passenger safety …

The article demonstrates that a ship registered with Malta, with a shipowner recorded in Curaçao, operated by a British company but operating for the American Carnival cruise company was able to continue to navigate despite dangerous and flagrant problems (canoeing in bad life State, radar problem, breaks of pipes etc.).

In the event of a crime or offense committed on board, this administrative and jurisdictional complexity makes it possible to dissuade or prevent from going back to the officials. Surveys carried out in the United States show that flights, sexual assault and rape that took place on board remain unpunished because of these obstacles.

A recent Arte report [46] questions former ship’s captains testifying to the fact that passenger safety is not ensured in the event of an accident. Indeed, the size of the boats means that very often, there is no solution to evacuate people on board. 32 people died during the sinking of the Costa Concordia in 2012. In 2019, a breakdown of the engines of the Viking Sky could have led to the death of several hundred people, the drama was narrowly avoided [46].

… Including the Labor Code …

The labor law that applies on board is not that of the areas visited or the country of the cruise company but once again that of the ship’s complacency pavilion.

For example, the American Carnival company, the largest company on an international scale (recorded in Panama and sailing under various foreign pavilions, etc.) escapes American regulations in terms of labor law and employment of Indian and Philippin unprotected staff by a law limiting working time or setting a minimum wage [52].

A server on the Harmony of the Seas (Royal Caribean) works every day without any interruption, 77 hours per week, for 9 months for a monthly salary of € 1,300 even though server stations remain much more valued than the trades kitchen or cleaning [53].

More generally, the court on these workplaces makes any visibility / protection adequate difficult. However, between 1998 and 2015, 318 breaches of crew rules were noted (mainly in Europe) on 80 ships [44]. It frequently happens that companies put an end to employment contracts in the event of illness. The appeals are complex. For example, for boats registered in the Bahamas, disputes are settled before an arbitration court chaired by a judge paid by the Royal Caribbean Company [46].

Bob Dikinson, the former president of Carnival, explicit without being moved by this way of doing [53]: “We want a lively, competitive and very helpful crew, we have people from Eastern Europe , from Asia, Africa, who raise your hand to come and work, we just have to bend down to choose them, and if they are not good, we take others. We can be selective, we recruit worldwide. »»

The management of the Pandemic Covid has also shown the best face of this industry in the field of human resources. Many sailors were forcibly confined and in deplorable conditions on board ships, themselves blocked in ports or anchor. The ability of this industry to manage this kind of exceptional crises has only the absence of statistics on the number of suicide of embedded staff [54].

… And payment of taxes.

Finally, being recorded in tax havens (Carnival in Panama; Norwegian in Bermuda; Royal Caribbean in Bahamas …) allows cruising companies to escape tax profits in addition to social charges. Carnival, between 2011 and 2015, paid $ 44 million in taxes, or 1 % of its profits per year. The MSC company centralized its European activities in a subsidiary based in Geneva, allowing only 5.7 million euros to the French tax authorities in 2019, or 1.4 % of its profit.

7. False solutions


Following the protests of residents and media surveys on air pollution, the desire to reduce pollutant emissions begins to register in the regulations.

In this context, the shipowners and industrialists in the sector, forced to make changes, do not hesitate to qualify as “green” technologies which make it possible to comply with the new regulations on air pollution, by obscuring the fact whether they participate in global warming and/or destruction of the marine environment.

The two main “false solutions” which are largely deploying are scrubbers and LNG.

The international maritime organization has set a CAP of carbon neutrality in the maritime sector in 2050, which seems both too far given the climate emergency, and not achievable without a reduction in maritime traffic [55] . Certain newly envisaged technologies such as biognl or hydrogen are in their infancy and will not be able to meet the colossal energy needs of the sector.

Some explanations on these false solutions.

Use of scrubbers at “open loop”

An amendment was brought to the Marpol Convention (see chapter “Air pollution”) by petroleum groups and by maritime companies to comply with the regulations concerning the limitation of rejections at the chimney output to 0.5 % of SOX everything By continuing to use heavy fuel oil at 3.5 % widely available and at low prices. Thanks to this amendment, sea companies are therefore allowed to continue using fuel oil at 3.5 % if they equip their ships with “smoke washers”: scrubbers, to the detriment of seas and oceans.

It is a question of spraying seawater in the exhaust duct of smoke, to reduce SO2 emissions (sulfur dioxide). In the vast majority of cases, scrubber is “open loop” (“open loop”), or “hydride” (see Figure 1). This means that hot and acid water, responsible for soot, SOX and combustion residues (including heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [HAP]), is rejected at sea.

HAPs and heavy metals have been associated with cancers and reproductive system disorders in marine mammals [56]. The temperature increase in the oceans and their acidification already cause the laundering and death of coral reefs, serious disturbances of fish and phytoplancitons and an acceleration of global warming. Now, scrubbers are dotting washing waters that are warmer and more acidic than ambient sea water [57].

Scrubbers only make it possible to move air pollutants to the sea [58]. This could be contrary to article 195 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which stipulates not to move the damage or the risks and not to replace one type of pollution with another.

As a precautionary measure, discharges of open loop scrubbers were prohibited in January 2022 in a band of 3 miles from the nearest land in French territorial waters [59] but remain authorized in the rest of the Mediterranean . In addition, the lack of control makes respect for this rule fairly vague.

In 2015, less than 250 ships had scrubber, in 2020, this number increased to more than 4,300, according to industry figures [60] and orders do not weaken (see below).

Although few many cruise liners strongly contribute to the pollution of the seas by their huge seawater flows: several hundred m3 per hour.

Rejections of smoke washing water by ship category. Source : International Council on Clean Transportation [61] [62]

According to Kerstin Magnusson Marine Ecotoxicologist at IVL, “If we allow scrubbers’ rejection in the sea, we expose marine ecosystems to a new source of pollution, in addition to all those to which they are already subject. This goes against the UN global environmental objectives, which require that we prevent or at least significantly reduce all forms of pollution in the sea by 2025 ”

In addition, the use of scrubbers increases the consumption of fuels, and therefore greenhouse gas by around 2% [58].

In addition their effectiveness in fighting air pollution is very relative: for Dr. Ralf Zimmermann, director of research at Rostock University, the objective of a scrubber is to eliminate SO2, but it does not limit the particles and other pollutants which are in the breathable part of the air [46]: with or unscribe, the concentrations of inhalable particles are practically identical.

These devices therefore constitute a threat to marine ecosystems, lead to an increase in fuel consumption and are not alone in removing health impacts. These devices are therefore used above all to bypass international regulations at a lower cost.

Use of scrubbers with “closed loop”

With the operating mode in closed loop, the water is continuously recirculated and a reagent is used to neutralize the sulfur content of the exhaust gases. Part of the sludge generated is stored on the ship and only a small amount of water is rejected at sea after treatment [63]. This system, at first glance more effective to avoid pollution, however reveals two disturbing problems.

The residual sludge will have to be transferred to the ground and processed without guarantee concerning the existence of an adapted treatment sector, neither on the coverage of the costs caused, nor even on the possible risks of earth pollution.

The second problem lies in the lack of control of discharges at sea. For one reason or another, especially on long journeys, storage tanks welcoming the sludge can be poorly sized or victims of damage. We can also imagine their evacuation at sea to save time on the next stop for example. Especially if the ship concerned is equipped with a “hybrid system” (which can operate in a closed or open loop), possibly allowing it to empty its tanks.

In addition, the operation of a closed loop system requires the addition of a solid base and in an assessment of the life cycle and costs [64], it has been estimated that a ship equipped with A closed loop scrubbers system would consume more than 2500 L of sodium hydroxide (NAOH) per day. The Naoh is very responsive and corrosive and for a ship, transporting large volumes on board implies an additional risk for the crew.

At the Baltic Sea, since the establishment of a SECA zone in 2020 (which authorizes scrubbers with a closed loop), researchers are starting to measure the impacts of this pollution.

Use of liquefied natural gas (LNG)

Natural gas is the third most used fossil energy after oil and coal. Gisements are present in a few countries, which is transported either by high pressure gas pipelines or by LNIR after being liquefied: it is the famous liquefied natural gas (LNG). This is a booming sector: the global quantity of LNG transported has doubled since 2009 [65].

The use of LNG does not reject Sox, and much less NOx or fine particles [66]. But name it “clean fuel” hidden from size problems concerning greenhouse gas emissions and environmental damage.

Indeed, LNG reduces CO2 emissions compared to heavy fuel oil [67] by 30%, but, as the NGO t & e this decrease is offset by methane leaks [68]. Indeed, the extraction of natural gas, its transport and its use inevitably produce leaks [69] of methane, whose greenhouse effect is much higher than that of CO2 [70].

However, our ministers still talk about this fossil energy as a decarbonization solution …:

Tweet by Clément Beaune, Minister responsible for transport, who confuses decrease in air pollution and decarbonation

The other major problem is that natural gas extraction seriously affects the environment. For example :

  • The United States, which is currently developing their LNG exports, produce it from shale gas,
  • The French company Total Energies, which hopes to become the world leader in LNG:
  • Use gas deposits in the Arctic, developing for example in the Yamal peninsula (on the Arctic Ocean at the limit of the European part of Russia) a gas extraction program which results in enormous destruction of the natural environment, vital environment of the Rennes farming population [71],
  • is in the process of carrying out a very controversial project off South Africa within a zone housing a particularly rich marine life [72].

While “today the living collapses, the climate collapses, it is really the last of the good ideas to go and develop projects to exploit fossil hydrocarbons in one of the richest and wonderful areas of the planet ”[72].

LNG projects have also been excluded from the funding of the recovery and resilience plan presented to Europe for the “greening of ports”

Some shipowners concede that this is not an ideal solution and speak of a “transitional solution”. However, the long -term solution has not been found and the hardworking terminals are very expensive to build: if a miracle solution appears, these heavy investments will have been made in vain. In addition, ships powered by LNG built today have an average lifespan of 40 years, making the “transient” nature of this unlikely solution.

BioLNG and hydrogen, miracle solutions?

Biomethane can be produced from various organic sources such as agricultural products, animal fats, plants, biomass waste or treatment sludge via an anaerobic or gasification process.

These sources are limited, especially since there are other uses (heating, cooking or even electricity production) which must also do without fossil gas.

In addition, ships can only use biomethane if it is liquefied. This represents an additional manufacturing step, and therefore, a waste of energy. Indeed, liquefaction (cooling of biomethane at -162 ° C) generally leads to an energy loss of 8 %, while this resource could instead be provided directly to households or power plants in the gas state [73 ].

Biomethane is also expensive fuel. Although small quantities can be produced from discharge biogas at affordable prices, they remain very limited. Other raw materials, such as wastewater, forestry and agricultural residues or dairy and non -dairy manure, would result in costs up to 30 times higher at the current price of Fossil LNG [73].

The issues are similar with hydrogen or hydrogen -based synthetic fuels (ammonia, methanol) which are now also highlighted by the cruise industry.

Let us first remember that hydrogen is an energy storage mode and no production: it is a “battery” which must be loaded with an energy produced elsewhere, with a yield of the order of 25%: It takes 4 times more energy to load the battery than what it can then deliver [74].

A survey carried out by reporterre on hydrogen [75] reveals that today, more than 95 % of hydrogen produced in the world comes from methane, oil or coal, by very polluting processes , especially in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. All the challenge of the hydrogen plans is to “decarbonize” this production by 2030 or 2050, to switch to “green” hydrogen (produced from renewable energy, in particular solar energy).

But to fulfill only one of the objectives of the European strategy by 2030, that of replacing fossil hydrogen currently consumed by European industry (petrochemical and fertilizer) by “green” hydrogen, it would be 86 reactors nuclear power or 5,470 km2 of photovoltaic panels, the area of the Ardèche department.

Hydrogen therefore, is not a magic solution and will not be able to meet the needs of all sectors of the economy in which it is highlighted. In this context, the cruising ship sector should not clearly be a priority.

Finally, the highlighting of these solutions presented as “green”, reassures consumers concerned about their health and unscrupulously pursue customer growth, which perfectly illustrates the rebound effect [76] [ 77] according to which a technical innovation supposed to reduce the nuisance of certain consumer goods will at the same time push for an increase in consumer access to these goods, and ultimately to an increase in nuisances. Live the “clean cruises”!

8. Well-established lobbies

The cruise loves greenwashing

The cruise industry is structurally incompatible with current ecological issues.

Faced with the protest that rises, she nevertheless uses the arguments to present herself green:

  • As has been seen, by calling technologies that limit air pollution as “sustainable” but do not really reduce carbon impact: use of LNG or electrification of quays
  • Technologies that they do not use if they cause over-hobs:
    • For example, boats generally have a “dual fuel” engine, which allow them to use LNG … or to go back to heavy fuel oil if the LLG becomes too expensive [78],
    • An investigation in British ports reveals that shipowners, while excessively promoting the electrification of the quays, do not connect to the British ports equipped because the energy is more expensive [79].

The more difficult the pill is to swallow, the more the industry deploys means to pass it through its well -developed lobbying network (see following). They do not hesitate to offer cruises to dozens of journalists and influencing spoiled on board and stopovers on islands bought by cruise companies so that they then sell the cruise maker dream [80] .

On a global scale: the CLIA

Globally, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) sets up intense lobbying networks so that nothing hinders its interests. For example, the project to establish regulations in the United States against the noise generated by ships, deafening marine fauna, has never been able to see the light of day, scuttled by lobbies [51].

Dissemination of messages in Marseille – May 2023

In Marseille, the “cruise club” tells us stories

The cruise club, today “Cruise Club Marseille Provence”, despite its name, is not a club of happy tourists.

This lobbying organization organizes in October 2019 the first edition of the Blue Maritime Summit [81] bringing together representatives of the public authorities, of several cruising and energy companies (including Total and Elengy, a subsidiary of Engie that manages two LNG terminals); To sign a “blue charter” which includes questionable promises on the merits, without any regulatory constraints and without approaching global warming. Thus, the president of the cruise club, commenting on the commitments of the Blue Charter at his signature, declares: “Nothing obliges us to put these measures to put in place. They are part of any regulatory obligation. This is a voluntary approach “[82].

This club does not hesitate to use disinformation to give a green image to shipowners not changing their practices. Thus the brochure “Understanding the eco-energy transition of cruise ships” [83] published by the Cruise Club in 2020 with the region’s logo deceives the reader by highlighting the use of scrubbers and LNG.

The second part of this “Blue Maritime Summit” which took place in October 2022 and was an opportunity for the main shipowners to sign with great fanfare a “sustainable mediterranean cruise charter”, which only applies to French waters and comprising 13 completely hollow commitments. What is more, the signature of this charter has absolutely nothing binding. Stop Cruises made a video to decipher this communication operation (see link below).

Sustainable Mediterranean cruise charter: A com operation available here:

The cruise industry therefore has significant lobbying means to organize disinformation, weigh on policies and prevent the law from evolving against its interests.

Widely relayed to the metropolis

The Metropolitan Territorial Energy Climate Plan was subject to public inquiry from September 13 to October 22, 2021. Regarding maritime activities, this plan offers two things [84]:

  • Anticipate the future low-emiterranean emission zone by accompanying the development of a liquefied natural gas supply sector from FOS methanier terminals (Portage: GPMM- South Paca region- Cost: € 40,000,000),
  • Create a new relationship between Cruise Club Marseille Provence and the metropolis in order to initiate a common dynamic for the energy and ecological transition of this sector (portage: Cruise club – Cost: € 80,000).

To understand this lack of initiative, this follow-up vis-à-vis the most disrespectful climate business leaders, we can read the following declaration, which resonates as an act of faith:

“Faced with the challenges posed by global warming and in an ever more competitive context, the metropolis is convinced that the economic performance of companies is priority and that support for their transition to a more sustainable operating mode is a vector” [82].

The City of Marseille abolished in 2021 its membership and subsidies (90,000 euros) in Marseille Provence Cruise Club on the grounds “that this is a lobbying tool not respecting the balance between public authorities and interests private ”. But the department (at the head of which we find the same Martine Vassal as in the metropolis) hastened to increase her subsidies to compensate for this loss [85].

And also supported by the region

The activity of cruises is also supported by the region, making cruises one of the priorities is its “zero smoke stops” (discussed in part 10) and participating in the development of the GNL sector.

Here again, disinformation is at work, as for example in the publication below in which the president of the South region quotes an “INSEE” survey which would reveal “massive support” at the cruise while this “information” In reality comes from a survey carried out by the company Mars-Marketing on an order from the GPMM itself on a panel of 500 people, less than half of which are Marseillais [51]…

Publication of Renaud Muselier of May 3, 2023

These positions may seem trivial but are indicative of the state of the current debate on the future of this activity.

Supports also exist in government

The secretary general of the Elysée, main collaborator of Emmanuel Macron, was indicted for “illegal taking of interest” on October 3, 2022. In question: his family ties hidden with the main shareholders of the MSC transport group, One of the first customers of Saint-Nazaire construction sites. On several occasions, he found himself in a position to make the means of the state available to the cruise maker, before going to pantoufler there.

Banner “We are very in Kohler (angry in french) against MSC Cruises – Water demonstration – June 17, 2023

Édouard Philippe, mayor of Le Havre and ex-Prime Minister, defends the project to develop the new cruise port in Le Havre.

9. Progress around the Mediterranean and worldwide

Global scale: Maritime decarbonization objective in 2050

The regulation of the cruise sector is entrusted to the International Maritime Organization (OMI), a UN institution criticized for the weight of the private sphere within it [86]. But the rise in environmental concerns slowly begins to change the situation.

In July 2023, the OMI acted the CAP of carbon neutrality in the maritime sector by 2050. This objective would make it possible to respect the limit of 2 ° C of temperature increase set by the Paris Agreement (but not that of 1.5 ° C).

This objective seems very difficult to achieve. The OMI puts above all on the development of “zero-emission” fuel sources (hydrogen …), which, as discussed in the previous part, in its stammering and will not make it possible to meet the current energy demand. Without a decrease in maritime traffic, this objective cannot be achieved. Yet at the same time as it targets carbon neutrality, the OMI provides for an increase in traffic.

The development of vélic propulsion (using the force of the wind), is promising for a part (to be drastically reducing) of maritime traffic. It will never be a solution for cruises that does not need energy only for its propulsion but also to run extravagant equipment on board.

On a Mediterranean scale: the ECA Med (Emission Control Area Mediterranean) zone project)

In France, the National Plan for Reduction of Air Pollutants (PREPA) emissions, adopted in 2017, is considering the implementation of new low emissions areas in Mediterranean. The impact study carried out by Inneris shows that the implementation of an ECA zone, synonymous with reducing sulfur oxide emissions (SECA area: 0.1% of sulfur content in fuels ) and nitrogen oxide emissions (NECA area: implementation of cleaner engines), would lead to health benefits at least three times higher than costs [87].

The SECA zone has been noted and will come into force in 2025. It has not been retained from the implementation of a NECA zone for the moment, but preparatory work should start in 2024 to accelerate its establishment. Unfortunately for marine life, to date the use of scrubber in this area has not been prohibited.

On a European scale: European regulation Fueleu Maritime

The European Maritime European Regulation will establish the obligation for passenger ships and container ships to use the power supply to the dock “or other zero emission technologies” for all electricity needs when moored at the quay in the main ports of the EU from 2030, with a view to alleviating air pollution in ports [88].

The particularly vulnerable maritime zone project

In the Mediterranean, the main cause of mortality of sperm whales, common rorquals and whales (endangered in the Mediterranean) lies in the collision of cetaceans with ships, whose traffic is intensifying. To stop this disastrous phenomenon, the OMI designated the Mediterranean Sea of the Northwest as a particularly vulnerable maritime area (ZMPV), on the proposal of Spain, France, Italy and Monaco. Voluntary measures, which will be put in place (distance and safety speed, reports, etc.) will be examined in 2023 for their imminent adoption.

On the scale of certain ports and in France: the prohibition of scrubbers discharges near the coast

23 states and 71 ports have decided to prohibit the discharges of the scrubbers in a loop open to their territorial waters or their port waters. Recently, Turkey, the authority of the Suez Canal, Oman and Saudi Arabia joined this list [59].

Since January 2022, a French law has banned scrubbers’ discharges within 3 miles from the coast (but no regulation beyond). However, derogations have already been granted to certain boats from the Corsica Linea [89].

Limitation of cruise traffic in certain cities

Following the observation of the numerous local negative impacts of the cruise industry and the mobilizations of residents, certain cities have taken specific measures to limit the number of ships to simultaneous platform.

In each city where cruise ships are welcomed, the inhabitants organize the dispute

In an article “Accablant pollution studies, citizen demonstrations, COVID-19, etc. Cruiseworms in the storm “, the newspaper Le Monde cites the many cities where the traffic of cruise ships has been limited in the past three years [86]:

  • In 2019, in Croatia, the city of Dubrovnik wanted to limit the passages of liners to two cruise ships per day, capping at 5,000 passengers. The same year, despite the warnings of the shipowners, the ports of Santorini, Bruges and Dublin limited the number of boats likely to dock simultaneously,
  • In Venice, the large cruise ships, accused of jeopardizing the lagoon ecosystem and weakening the city’s foundations, were banished from the city center in August 2021, but were postponed to the industrial port by continuing to damage the lagoon,
  • In Palma de Mallorca, traffic has been limited since 2022 to three liners per day, only one transporting more than 5,000 passengers: this advance was obtained thanks to the mobilization of around thirty associations of residents of Palma and environmental defenders. These describes it as “half-victory”: they had requested the limitation of 1 boat per day but find that a limitation to 3 boats per day does not reduce their number year-round because the stops are now distributed differently in time,
  • Further from the Mediterranean, in the Caribbean, whose waters welcome a third of world passengers, the Cayman islands renounce the construction of a terminal for large ships,
  • In Amsterdam, the municipal council voted the movement of the terminal outside the center of Amsterdam as part of a plan aimed at limiting the number of tourists to 20 million per year and reducing pollution.

The fact that stopovers are moved to a riparian port much limits advances in ecological and health matters and the growth of the cruise industry is only slightly slowed down. New cruise terminals continue to see the light of day, as in the French port of Le Havre, Valencia or Barcelona in Spain. Global Mediterranean scale could be more effective.

10. And in Marseille ?

In Marseille, the number of ships staying at the quay is not limited, up to 6 ships parked simultaneously.

Within a “large martime port” as we have in Marseille “GPMM”, governance is based on a public / private mixture as follows:

  • The port management is entrusted to a board, composed to date of 4 members, under the control of the supervisory board which has 18 members (5 representatives of the State, 5 representatives of local authorities (2 region, 1 department, 1 metropolitan area and 1 city), 3 staff representatives, 5 “qualified personalities” (including 1 representative of the CCI and 1 in the economic world),
  • The Development Council having an advisory and proposal role (but not decision -making) has 40 members representing professional, social and associative circles, as well as local authorities and their groups, concerned by the GPMM.

Thus, the city of Marseille has a fairly limited direct power on the decisions that are taken within the GPMM (1 votes out of 18 on the supervisory board). It launched a petition which requested the prohibition of access to the wearing of the most polluting ships on days of pollution peaks, but it cannot apply it itself (contrary to what could have been done for example in Nice ).

Public initiatives can, however, influence decisions, also in the form of a plan funded by the public, the most current example being that of the “Escale Zero Fumes”. Regarding this plan, in fact, it is urgent to act by electrifying the quays of form 10, ferries and freight. But for cruise ships, our collective opposes it. Indeed :

  • Investing in the electrification of the cruise quays is to perpetuate the arrival of the most polluting ships with public money,
  • Cruise boats are the most energy -consuming and require indecent power for substitutable activity,
  • At a time when sobriety and energy sovereignty must be the priorities to preserve our future and peace, it is unacceptable to put energy, whatever its source, for cruise activity to feed a rink in Full summer, giant screens, jacuzzis, laser-games, bars, air conditioning,
  • To improve air quality and protect our lungs, deprive the electrification of quays for the naval repair site, ferries and bars but refuse cruise ships in Marseille!

Conclusion and claims

Nothing justifies the maintenance of these floating leisure parks that have not taken the measure of the climate and social emergency requiring more than surface greening. Their persistence is only due to a great inertia of political decisions, still hampered by the intense activity of lobbies.

In response, the inhabitants have long denounced air pollution and now also the many impacts on the marine environment, such as water acidification. More generally, cruises contribute to global warming and the exhaustion of resources.

The social assessment is also fraught with consequences since these companies practice optimization / tax evasion, exploit their staff, bypass the obligations in terms of security.

The economic justification put forward does not counterbalance the future cost of serious environmental impacts. In the case of cruises, the profits on stopovers are so weak that the argument is not admissible. Finally, advanced technical innovations (Hydrogen LNG, Electrification of quays, etc.) not only are not solutions, but make people believe that the problems will be resolved, preventing from seeking real solutions.

However, the end of the cruises, far from signifying the end of travel, invites us to rethink our relationship to tourism, time, natural environments, to holidays that would allow a quality of experience rather than a dizzying quantity.

This is why we gathered between collectives of residents and activists to define and bring common claims around cruises and maritime traffic in general.

In our demands, we distinguish cruises, with a recreational only vocation, from other ships (ferries, frets, etc.), whose utility is not questioned.

Claim n°1: no longer receive cruise ships in Marseille and everywhere else

Support the transition thanks to the implementation of a fund to support the reorientation of jobs and training.

In view of the construction of the argument, it appears that maritime traffic also generates impacts on the environment that should be regulated. Read our letter to the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille on the subject here.

Claim n°2: Limit the impact of other ships

2.1. Accelerate the total electrification of the quays, starting with form 10 (naval repair site) – see our article.

2.2. Create an ECA zone (with limited pollutants) on the Mediterranean scale

2.3. Total prohibition of scrubbers in the Mediterranean.

In order to make these claims credible, we require an implementation calendar as well as the definition of control and sanction methods in the event of an offense.

Claim n ° 3: Having honest communication on the issue of cruises and maritime traffic in Marseille, and proposing a real democratic debate


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