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Archer Dismisses Hobart Cruise Ship Health Concerns

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 2 November 2017

Tags: Environment, Cruise Ships, Hobart, Air Quality, Fossil Fuels

Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens' Leader and Member for Denison

In Parliament today, Environment Minister, and local MP, Elise Archer, belittled Greens' questions about evidence that bunker fuel used by cruise ships visiting Hobart is a serious health hazard which has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Australian Senate passed a Greens’ motion, requiring the Turnbull Government to set a limit of 0.1% fuel oil sulphur content for cruise ships berthed in Hobart. In response to that motion, government spokesperson, Senator McGrath, said they would consider a request from the Tasmanian Government to implement a lower fuel-sulphur-content level in Hobart.

Ms Archer dismissed the concerns of the Australian Senate, and Hobart City Council led by Lord Mayor Sue Hickey, who passed motions requiring fuel oil sulphur content for cruise ships berthed in Hobart to be restricted to 0.1% in line with the European Union, United States and in Sydney Harbour.

Cruise ships visiting Hobart increased in number from 32 to 48 last season and are expected to exceed 60 this year. The majority of those ships will use heavy fuel oil, known as ‘bunker fuel’.

Bunker fuel is the sludge at the bottom of a barrel of crude oil, after the refining process. It contains concentrated sulphur and heavy metals, and, when burnt, releases sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, toluene, benzene, and formaldehyde. It also can contain 3,500 times more sulphur than a standard diesel motor vehicle. 

Cruise ship pollutants are being spewed out in levels 35 times higher than what is allowed in Europe, the US, and Sydney Harbour, where the maximum sulphur content is restricted to 0.1%.

Cruise ships in Hobart berth next to UTas’ College of the Arts, and the small radius affected by pollution captures the waterfront, Salamanca Place, and the CBD where many Tasmanians live, work and study. The health and safety of Hobartians rests on Elise Archer’s shoulders.

Ms Archer refused to consider protecting the health of Tasmanians by limiting cruise ships to use 0.1% low sulphur fuel in Hobart, saying there were national moves underway to reduce the limit to 0.5% by 2020. That is five times higher than in Europe, America and Sydney, and will continue to be a health risk.

The economic benefits of cruise ships in Hobart should not be at the expense of the health of people living and working here. Many cruise ships visiting Hobart also berth in Sydney Harbour where they comply with the 0.1% sulphur cap.

The NSW Government’s response proves Tasmania won’t have to choose between public health and the relative benefits that flow from cruise ship visits.

Minister Archer must act, and protect the health of Tasmanians, just as governments have in Europe, the US, and in Sydney.  She should be writing to the Turnbull Government without delay.