Our everyday interactions with traffic and congestion cause us to often overlook the devastating effects the shipping industry has on climate change and air quality.
However, with five deaths a week due to air pollution and chronic asthma issue, the Maltese government must start using its status as a world leader in the maritime sector to enact real change.
Studies have found that in real terms, air pollution spewed out of cruise ships can sometimes dwarf land-based vehicles.
An analysis of 203 cruise ships around Europe observed that the 83 cruise ships that visit Malta bring with them a massive 502.8 tonnes of sulphur oxide (SOx) almost 150 times the amount generated by cars.
Meanwhile, cruise ships have emitted over 1.1 million kilograms of nitrogen oxide, about 70% of the amount produced by traffic.
When it comes to PM 2.5, the country’s most harmful pollutant that accounts for 240 deaths per year, cruise ships create 30% of the emissions caused by cars. However, that still translates to 80,000 kg of the toxic particle.
The shocking figures don’t even paint the full picture, given that it fails to take into account Malta’s massive shipping fleet.
Standing at more than 8,000, Malta has the largest shipping registry in Europe and the sixth-largest in the world.
Here’s how Malta can solve the problem on a worldwide scale:
Despite the consensus being that Malta’s tiny size makes it incapable of having any substantial effect on the global stage, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
By virtue of the country’s massive shipping fleet, Malta is one of the most powerful states within the UN’s International Maritime Organisation, where a nation’s registry, rather than its geographical or economic size, determines their sphere of influence.
Malta has sat on the IMO’s Council for 12 consecutive years. A Maltese national, Stefan Micallef, even sits as the IMO’s Assistant Secretary-General.
With Europe’s cruise liners accounting for ten times more than the total land vehicle emissions, it’s time for Malta to step up and finally becomes the world leader the government desperately wants it to be.
Instead, the country has been routinely criticised for lacking any ambition to drive solutions to the problems. Unfortunately, the same can be said for other Mediterranean nations like Greece, Italy, or France.
Real, tangible moves to initiate radical change will be a massive statement and will undoubtedly get the attention from World Leaders the government craves.
It will also send a strong message back home and add weight to the government’s claims of environmental prioritisation, in the face of growing criticism.
The government, to its credit, did form part of an IMO strategy that pledges to reduce C02 emissions by half by 2050. However, with countries all over the world failing miserably to meet any targets outlined in similar policies, drastic action needs to be taken.
Maybe the government can finally show that the “environment truly is a priority.”