Ocean Rebellion protest against cruise ships anchored on South Devon coast

Activists paddled out to the Marella Explorer 2, a TUI-line cruise ship and one of three anchored off Torbay.. Credit: Ocean Rebellion.

Environmental activists on kayaks have taken part in a protest against damage and pollution caused by cruise ships.

Members of Ocean Rebellion kayaked out to the Marella Explorer 2, one of three cruise ships anchored off the coast of Torbay on Saturday 17 April.

The Torbay Harbour Master and police officers from Falmouth were also at the scene.

Ocean Rebellion says cruise liners pollute the environment, claiming fumes from the largest vessels are worse than a whole city's vehicle emissions.

Colin Moore, a 66-year-old retired teacher was one of the activists and said: "There have sometimes been 10 or more cruise ships off South Devon shores at the same time in recent months.

"Most people have a rather romantic view of cruise liners, perhaps based on films such as the Titanic and following prolific advertising. There has been talk of welcoming them back to Torbay on a regular basis but modern cruise liners are far bigger than the iconic Titanic and the pollution they cause can have serious health consequences."

Ocean Rebellion said action is needed ahead of the UK hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November. Credit: Ocean Rebellion.

Activists said the heavy oil used by cruise ships for fuel is producing particulate pollution, which causes poor air quality for residents on the coast.

Colin added: "[Particulate pollution] is normally emitted on the open sea but when you have more than 10 of these ships in and around a coastal population like Torbay air quality deteriorates, particularly in light onshore winds.

"One of the biggest problems is the levels of nitrogen oxide and sulphur which has been linked to higher rates of cancer and respiratory disease."

The cruise ships are parked in the bay due to Covid restrictions as the Torbay coast offers a safe anchor from the prevailing westerly winds. Although there is only a skeleton crew on board, the ships must have all their lights on at night for safety reasons.

The ships also need to move from port to port in order to run their engines and dispose of waste from time to time. The Marella Explorer 2 lost its anchor in Torbay during the extreme weather in January according to the harbour master's log.

Activists said they were concerned ships dragging on their anchors could damage the sea floor and the ecosystem there.

Ocean Rebellion also held a protest on Torre Abbey beach. Credit: Ocean Rebellion.

Helen, another kayaker at the action, said: “If this country, and indeed the nations of the world, are serious about keeping the CO2 footprint to within safe limits these cruise ships should be scrapped and better more eco-friendly means of having a good relaxing holiday should be developed.

"With the UK joint-hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November more people than ever will be aware of the need to protect the environment and Torbay needs to reflect that change.

"Venice has banned cruise ships for this reason [black soot emissions] and because of increased frequency of collisions, and other cities, like Barcelona, are considering doing the same.

"They are doing it for their citizens' health but these ships should be banned from going anywhere, especially the Arctic and Antarctic regions where the soot darkens the ice and snow and accelerates melting."

The kayakers returned to the beach for a protest on Torre Abbey beach with other Ocean Rebels in costume with banners and flags.

In response to the protests, TUI have reiterated that health and safety is a priority for the company and that they adhere to regulations set by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

Their statement reads: "Health and safety protocols are always our first priority and we consulted with the local Coastguard and Natural England when Marella Explorer 2 had to shelter in Torbay due to adverse weather conditions in January.

"The ship temporarily lost anchor during this time which has been fully investigated. We can confirm that no waste was discharged, we operate with the utmost respect for the environment and all our ships are compliant with MARPOL as well as local regulations."

The protestors back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill which now has the support of over 100 MPs, and Ocean Rebellion are urging people to write to their local MP.

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