Cruise ship emissions significantly lower than previous years

Emissions from cruise ships in James Bay are the lowest they’ve been in years.

  • Oct. 2, 2015 2:00 p.m.

— Pamela Roth

Emissions from cruise ships in James Bay are the lowest they’ve been in years.

According to a recent report on cruise ship emissions in Victoria, the highest sulphur dioxide levels measured this year in James Bay are significantly lower than previous years. The ship most associated with single, double and triple emissions is the Ruby Princess, which joined the Seattle-Alaska schedule this season.

Marg Gardiner, president of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, said residents are aware the emissions were dropping to acceptable levels and have been keeping a close eye on the situation for several years.

“It’s down at an acceptable level. Whether it stays that way without monitoring is another question,” said Gardiner. “Our line has always been that we want this industry to behave in our town.”

Cruise ship emissions create both conventional pollutants and greenhouse gases producing sulphur compounds and nitrogen oxides in addition to carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

In order to track emissions, monitoring sites were set up in various areas of the community in 2006. The monitoring sites showed pollution levels were at their worst between 2009 and 2012, then peaked briefly in July 2014, exceeding World Health Organization 24-hour guidelines.

Many residents living in the area experienced sore eyes and throats whenever ships were in port. Some couldn’t go outside and others chose to move away.

Gardiner said residents who are sensitive to chemical exposure continue to detect and experience emissions, but the current measurements are lower than advisory levels and provincial and federal targets so serious health impacts aren’t anticipated. But the problems surrounding air quality in the community are far from over.

“The air quality is the best it’s been since 2006 for the cruise ships, but we have other issues,” said Gardiner, noting there hasn’t been any improvements with emissions from buses, helicopters or float planes.

The Greater Victoria Harbor Authority (GVHA) has also monitored cruise ship emissions on a weekly basis, and has had no indications of emissions exceeding acceptable levels this year.

Ian Robertson, GVHA chief executive officer, said guidelines were brought in this year for cruise ships across North America to lower sulphur emissions. More ships have also installed scrubber technology, which knocks out the bulk of sulphur dioxide and particulate matter.

“The advancements cruise ships are making, we’re satisfied with the results, but there’s always improvements that can be made,” Robertson said.

Victoria’s Ogden Point terminal is currently the busiest cruise ship port-of-call in Canada, according to the GVHA.

Cruise ship tourism has grown from 110 ship calls carrying 161,000 passengers in 2002 to a record 229 ships carrying 513,000 passengers during the 2015 season. The last ship on the Alaska itinerary arrived in Victoria Sept. 30.