Dublin was recently named as one of the EU cities to breach WHO air quality standards for PM2.5. This fine particulate matter is responsible for more than 3 million premature deaths across the world every year according to Dr Maria Neira, director of the department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health at the WHO.

Sources of PM2.5 include diesel engines. Whilst much work has been carried out to improve diesel engine road vehicles, emission from shipping is an increasing concern. Areas bordering both sides of the English Channel are subject to large PM2.5 emissions from shipping as evidenced by the surprise inclusion of Eastbourne in the list of the UK’s most polluted cities.

So what has this to do with cruise ships? Air pollution from international shipping accounts for around 50,000 premature deaths per year in Europe, at an annual cost to society of more than €58bn (Guardian). Ships of course have diesel engines and are generally at sea. But cruise ships like to berth in the centres of cities. The problem is that these cruise ships will generate their own power using their on board diesel engines whilst berthed. These cruise ships, with their engines running are the equivalent of between 700 and 2,000 stationary lorries a day and this is in the middle of a city.

In Ireland, An Bord Pleanála has granted planning permission for the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) Project – part of the Port of Dublin. This expansion will also enable the largest cruise liners in the world to safely berth in the River Liffey Channel at the heart of Dublin City. Thus we have the prospect of these large cruise ships further impacting on the already poor air quality in Dublin. Whilst having these ships call at Dublin is welcome from a financial point of view steps need to be taken to mitigate the adverse effects of the air pollution caused otherwise air quality will worsen.