Are you thinking about escaping the winter cold for a hot holiday on a cruise ship?

If you thought that travelling by ship might be better for the environment than flying or driving a car, you would be sadly mistaken.

Travelling by cruise ship will use almost 7.6 times as much carbon as making the same journey by plane and there are even more sinister pollutants that are belched into our air too.

The cruise industry is booming - in fact it is New Zealand's fastest growing tourism sector, and there is much lobbying underway to expand ports to make way for the giant ships, which has a major environmental impact.

But along with the money they bring comes unwanted baggage.

The floating monstrosities spew out deadly emissions from engines that burn heavy fuel oil - the most polluting diesel fuel in the world. After helping to send out more than 8,000 volunteers to clean up this sticky filth after the Rena disaster, we know it all too well.

Over 70% of ship emissions occur within 400km of land and the emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxide and particulate matter are awful. Even in Europe, where the law requires low sulphur fuel to burned when ships are in dock, the pollution caused by this is over 100 times worse than normal diesel.

Despite their controls - which New Zealand does not have - about 50,000 people die prematurely from international shipping polluting the air in Europe, which costs over €58 billion Euros ($95 billion NZD).

In Southhampton, UK, many residents where the biggest cruise ship ever is about to set sea will be glad to see it go even though it created employment in the area.


This port breaches World Health Organisation guidelines for air pollution. The area has little manufacturing, but is Britain's second largest container port and busiest cruise terminal.

As is currently the case with aviation - international shipping sits outside of any climate change controls that have been implemented by nations in the Paris Agreement, effectively getting a free ride in terms of emissions.

But while the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), (who represents over 90 per cent of aviation traffic) is promising an agreement at is meeting in October this year that will deliver 'carbon-neutral growth from 2020', the shipping industry has shirked the idea of taking responsibility for the impact they have on climate change.

In a somewhat sickening twist, the New York Times has reported that because of the ice melts around the North Pole, cruise ships are now visiting areas that have just become accessible by sea in remote areas of Canada.

So when you are thinking about booking that next cruise holiday, perhaps opt for a train tour or even a campervan rather than supporting these massive buckets of scum - they are actually hurting the people who live around the ports that they visit.