Pollution: why are “scrubbers”, these cruise ship filters, in the sights of environmental defenders in Marseille?

The municipality and several associations are calling for a ban on these filters, which reduce engine exhaust fumes. They denounce the transfer of pollution into the sea.

A cruise ship in the port of Marseille (photo illustration). (AFP)

A public meeting is convened Tuesday, March 14 in the evening in Marseille. The municipality and several associations are targeting cruise liners that use “scrubbers”, these filters that reduce engine exhaust fumes. They are calling for their ban, because, according to them, if these filters certainly reduce atmospheric pollution, they are a disaster for marine biodiversity.

“It’s a device that was invented by shipowners to cope with changing regulations and always allow them to use the same fuel, heavy fuel oil, that is to say the worst that it there are currently on the market, at lower cost, rather than changing, denounces Remi, member of the Stop Cruises collective. The consequences are heavy metals and sulfur oxide directly discharged into the sea, which has impacts on marine biodiversity, on the acidification of the oceans and therefore on global warming. It is generally an attack on the environment accepted by all, at the present time.”

“The principle of “scrubbers” is really the transfer of part of the air pollution to the sea.”

France has banned discharges into coastal waters and port areas since last year. But this is not always respected, according to the environmental activist. “There are no controls! These regulations only apply in port and coastal areas and biodiversity does not stop at the borders of a port”, he accuses.

Complaints filed

The town hall of Marseille claims to support the associations. Last year, she launched a petition “against maritime pollution” which collected 53,000 signatures online. The elected ecologist, Herve Menchon, in charge of the coast, asks the State for more firmness, as much as with motorists, for example. “There is a form of aberration in asking citizens to pollute less, to be responsible, not to use the most polluting vehicles when they drive in the streets and pass by very polluting ships. You have to be consistent and apply to large ships the same solutions as those imposed on the inhabitants of the city of Marseille”, he assures.

For the first time, associations and residents took legal action last month. Several complaints were filed in the hope of provoking an electric shock. “This pollution linked to cruise ships has been denounced on several occasions, insists Maitre Isabelle Vergnoux, lawyer for the plaintiffs. Nothing has been done, nothing is moving. Complaints and the media coverage of complaints are to provoke a hold conscience of the public authorities, but also of the population and that the legislation changes”. The complaints were forwarded to the Marseille prosecutor’s office. Complaints against X for in particular endangering the lives of others, ecocide and marine pollution.