Saturday, September 27, 2014

German TV Covers Cruise Ship Pollution and Climate

On the Day 400,000 New Yorkers and many more around the world took to the streets in the "People's Climate March" demanding our leaders take urgent action to address climate change, the German TV show, "Weltspeigel" on the German public television channel ARD, was airing its story about cruise ship pollution. The introduction of the story noted the irony that only a few miles from the United Nations, where the International Climate Summit was being held and the topic of greenhouse emissions and air pollution was being discussed, some of the biggest polluters in the world were moored - cruise ships.

The piece went on to detail much of the information that this blog has covered over the last 5 years, and specifically related the story of our community - Red Hook, Brooklyn - which has been fighting since 2006 (when the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal opened at the edge of our dense residential neighborhood) to establish the practice of "cold ironing" for the visiting cruise ships. Cold ironing refers to the use of "shore power" - where the ships plug-in to the city's electric power grid so that these huge, dirty, diesel-guzzling behemoths of the sea can switch off their fossil fuel burning engines while docked at port. This practice eliminates the production of all of the harmful emission that the ships' idling engines and the burning of those dirty fuels produce - soot or PM (particulate matter), SOx, NOx, and of course CO2. Among this list of substances are known carcinogens, particles that induce asthma, heart disease, premature mortality, especially to our most vulnerable - kids, people with lung disease, the elderly, minority and low-income communities - and, of course, the list includes the gases which are the major contributors to climate change.

The German TV story notes that the Red Hook Cruise terminal is on the way to becoming the first terminal on the East Coast of the US to have this pollution-reducing and life-saving technology in place. But, it also notes that the cruise ship industry has been a reluctant partner in this process, and Carnival, who operates the ships that visit Brooklyn (and 1/2 of the international cruise ship industry), needed to be enticed to use the clean "shore power" by being offered a tax-payer subsidized rate of electricity. This incentive was required despite the ships already having many tax advantages (as cruise industry expert and critic, Prof. Ross Klein mentions in the piece, Carnival is only paying 1% taxes in the US), the industry as a whole making record-breaking profits, and also despite the Port Authority of NY and NJ stating in public testimony that the use of shore power at the terminal would lift an estimated $9 Million health burden from the shoulders of Brooklynites, especially Red Hook's residents, who were already suffering from staggering asthma rates, particularly in our children.

Below is a link to the German TV story. If you click the transcript (in German) and view it through a "Google Chrome" browser you will have an option to have the text translated. I have pasted a copy of that translation at the bottom of this post. This  is hopefully helpful to the English speaker, though the translation is a little hard to decipher at times.

On a personal note, I'm happy that my work on this blog has been recognized in this story. As someone who has been fighting this fight for years, sometimes seemingly shouting into a vacuum, it's great to get some international coverage of the issues that we have covered here on A View From The Hook. I thank the people at ARD for making such a great program about the issue. The only disappointment is that, even now, there is so, so little coverage of these issues in our local media - from local blogs, newspapers, TV, all the way up to the NY Times - the absence of coverage is confounding. Port pollution, the pollution that ships of all types create, the burning of astronomical quantities of fossil fuels - some of the most dirty fuel on the planet - the environmental and labor issues, the negative health impacts to our port-side communities, all of that stuff - it's hardly, if ever, mentioned in the media. And that's in the city that is home to the 3rd largest port complex in the country. Our new mayor, Bill DeBlasio, to whom I talked personally about the issue of port and ship pollution before he was elected - someone who at that time said he would pay this issue the close attention it deserves - has so far said and done close to nothing. All these recent announcements from the Mayor and the City about greenhouse gas reductions, and improving the health of New Yorkers, and all of that - it's great stuff! - but, in all those announcements, barely a syllable about the maritime industry's role in reducing pollution, limiting the production of greenhouse gasses and the need to decrease our reliance on the burning of fossil fuels. It's shameful, and the silence on this issue really needs to end.

Here's a link to the story -


Next week will be discussed at the UN climate summit in New York special on the reduction of greenhouse gases. Only a few kilometers from the UN moored daily cruise ships from around the world. These floating hotels, critics say, are among the largest polluters in the world, because the giants produced as much exhaust as 13,000 cars.

Most ships burn residual oil and that goes ashore as hazardous waste. Even at the dock in the metropolis of New York smoke more the chimneys. The district Red Hook holds a sad record. A quarter of the population suffers from asthma. The cruise company whose business is booming, do rather difficult to invest in environmentally friendly technologies.

Hazy Morning - The Queen Mary runs a. Traumschiff- dream trip. Once gliding past the Statue of Liberty in Manhattan. It is a special day - exactly 10 years ago, the luxury liner made its maiden voyage across the Atlantic exactly here. Subtle sounds in the lobby - deep in the belly of the Queen Mary - the guests are personally welcomed individually. The boss is mitgereist prepares his keynote speech. His business is booming - especially in Germany:

"New York is for us very important market, but here we are a year 1 billion to - and the Germans are our dear customers. Because they bring us the greatest growth rates "

He has the cruise manager of the Queen Mary in Sight - Prof. Ross Klein. He is considered the best-informed critics of the industry. How much contribute cruise ships to air pollution - it he points out again and again. "A cruise ship like the Queen Mary produces as much exhaust as 13,000 cars. For years, there are techniques to prevent this, but they cost money and reduce profits in the industry. "

Exhaust as 13,000 cars exhaust as 13,000 cars

On all oceans, the same image. Burnt is often residual oil on land would be special - these ships are among the largest polluters in the world - still. The German Aida fleet, the Queen Mary (are) now the American company Carnival. It controls more than half of the world market.

The chimneys of the Queen Mary smoke continued even after she has created. Exhaust gases of diesel-powered generators to produce electricity on board. The ship anchored in Redhook Brooklyn - Here especially, many children are suffering from asthma. The district holds a sad record. The City of New York indicates that in Redhook quarter of the residents has asthma - which is remarkably high. Asthma can be many reasons to have: air pollution is one of them: The severe asthma cases in his neighborhood drive Adam Armstrong for many years. He wrote to the mayor, and asked why, vessels moored right in front of his door and further pollute the air? "Because here, children die from asthma, I do not imagine that this is our reality. Since we must do everything possible to improve the air quality "

Even after applying the chimneys smoke more Even after applying the chimneys smoke more

Redhook - not exactly the best New York area. Many poor people in public housing live here as the family Geddie. Also Equasha Geddie has asthma. She performs in front of us, as she prepares for an attack und'zeigt us their inhaler - their life insurance. For her little brother Cee Deshawn any help came too late. 4 years ago was because the doctors could only find his death. The mother Kisha had brought him to the hospital: diagnosis: cardiac arrest after an asthma attack. "Now I do not cry as much as before, I got it stuck in my heart and I know he is in heaven now, and he's fine. But I think the strong air pollution here still impaired in our neighborhood respiration of many children. "

Red Hook Brooklyn, here moored cruise ships Red Hook Brooklyn, here moored cruise ships

There are already technical solutions - such as here in Oslo to supply ships from shore power, so that they do not pollute the air at least at the pier. Why were so forget a facility in New York in the new construction of the pier in Redhook, asks Adam Armstrong in 2006, the city of New York? What followed was a year-long tug of war between residents, the city and the company Carnival, a haggle, who has to pay for the expensive equipment.

Now, finally, is built on the pier. The huge current -Transformers are already. The city advertises now even so that the system will greatly improve the air in Redhook and environment. Health care costs would decrease by $ 9,000,000 per year. But can be passed to finally power `s ship, go 1 to 2 years into the country. The leads - are still in Rohbau.'Das company Carnival only a small part of the total cost will take over. "The city, so we taxpayers subsidize the whole thing. Carnival had threatened not to use the system when the power will not be cheaper for them. "

The Queen Mary is thus still some time mess up the environment - many tourists have no idea what environmental impact it there with their tickets abet. The international regulations are lax, soot filters on board, Bestromungsanlagen ashore (Shore Power) - all voluntary.

"We all need to protect the environment and reduce the emission of toxic particles: the reporter asked:" And you have built here on the ship already filter? "This should happen in a little over a year. As long as we still want to burn marine diesel "skimp when environmental protection and to bring in huge profits -. Reality is the market leader Carnival. By the way: In these profits, the Group pays Steuern- just totally legal around the 1 percent: "It's a scandal: there is no other industry in the world, which may so unimpeded avoid taxes. The companies use the services of various government agencies such as the Coast Guard, but they pay almost no taxes. "For 10 years, the Queen Mary crossed the oceans, the clean image of the industry has thick black spots.

Author: Markus Schmidt / ARD Studio New York