Viewpoint: It is irresponsible tourism 

By Jim O’Connell 

According to EPA calculations, a cruise ship anchored in the bay operating its hotel for 4,000 passengers emits as much sulfur dioxide (SO2) as 40,000 idling semi-trucks. 

All semi-trucks idle at 1 gallon per hour, using 15 ppm ultra-low sulfur diesel. A large cruise ship can burn 500 gallons per hour using shipping fuel emitting 1,000 ppm hoteling in port. So, 1gallon of 1,000 ppm is 66 x 1 gallon of semi-truck 15 ppm. 

In a NYT article, the EPA confirmed this semi-truck analogy claiming an 11 MW ship emits 34,000 idling tractor trailer trucks worth of SO2 when it described the harm ships were doing by not plugging into the electric shore power installed at the Red Hook, N.Y., berthing pier. A $20 million installation also subsidized by the citizens paying half the cost per kw used. They are paying for clean air in NYC to bring in cruise tourism. But the cruise ships have been reticent to plug in because it’s cheaper to make their own power using highly efficient diesel electric engines, more powerful than any engine built; however, they require the dirtiest fuel ever to operate. 

Consequently, each passenger is violating the five-minute 15 ppm diesel idling code by 12 times per hour for the 10-hour port of call. It amounts to 120 SO2 violations each for their visit. After observing over 20,000 passengers over three years, only an average 1 in 4.7 passengers has been observed at the tender pier carrying a purchase back to the ship. 

Using the average 1 in 4.7 making a retail purchase and taking that one step further and making a comparison – how much high sulfur fuel was used to buy that T-shirt or Bar Harbor souvenir? 

The passenger who purchases a retail item cost the environment 4.7 times the 120 gallons of semi-truck diesel to purchase a souvenir in Bar Harbor. That is 564 gallons. 

Picture a passenger pushing 564 gallons, which is 12.5 45-gallon barrels of diesel weighing 4,000 pounds, up the hill from the pier up Main Street to spend the estimated average of $50 to buy a souvenir. That is the cost to the environment of bringing the whole town with them on vacation. 

Totally irresponsible tourism! What merchant would invite this for a couple extra quick sales?  

The land-based tourists shut off their engine when they get here and they only require 12 gallons of regular gasoline to drive their family of eight in a six-cylinder Toyota Sienna one way from Boston. 

This cruise ship analysis is only considering the 10-hour fuel necessary to operate the needs of the whole town you brought with you, not the many more thousands of gallons it cost the environment to sail the whole town from Boston to Bar Harbor. 

Recently, Boston fined Paul Revere Bus Company of Roxbury $660,000 for 242 five-minute bus idling violations when a persistent cluster of asthma cases was discovered in the vicinity of its bus depot. As little as one-fifth of 1 ppm can kick off an asthma attack. 

Cruise ships and their tenders present the height of the absurd when it comes to violating SO2 emissions. 

A 4,000-passenger ship would violate the code the same amount as the 244 violations by Paul Revere Bus Co. every 138 seconds – $660,000 every 138 seconds. 

That is how serious the health effects are considered from breathing in SO2, where deep in the lungs it has been found to turn into sulfuric acid or battery acid, enabling it to get in the bloodstream where it causes heart disease and the premature failure of many organs ultimately resulting in premature death. In European ports, 50,000 deaths per year are attributed to diesel fumes – 20,000 of them are from SO2. 

You have a chance to stop this. You can vote for the better of two evils and vote for the citizens’ petition in November.  

A total ban is necessary, but that can be addressed at a future date. I collected 350 signatures out of the 450 presented to the town and when I iterated that the petition would limit the daily cap to 1,000 passengers per day, most people asked how many are allowed now? When I told them July and August were 3,500 and the spring and fall were 5,500 per day, their jaws dropped and they demanded to sign the petition, and 99 percent said they wanted to see zero ships. 

Jim O’Connell lives in Bar Harbor. He studied mechanical power engineering technology at Boston’s Wentworth Institute.

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