You are here

Matter of Public Importance - Cruise Ship Industry Impact on Tasmania


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Friday, 3 November 2017

Tags: Bunker Fuel, Cruise Ships, Hobart

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens - Motion) - Mr Speaker, I move-

That the House take note of the following matter: the impact of the cruise ship industry on Tasmania.

We thought it was important the House be given an opportunity to talk about the impact of the cruise ship industry on Tasmania and the environment and that is why we brought on this matter of public importance today. Ultimately, the question we asked this morning of the Minister for Environment and Parks goes to the health of the people living in and around Hobart. We had a woeful answer from the minister, who is apparently content for emissions here to be five times what is legally allowed in America, the European Union, and when cruise ships are berthed in the Port of Sydney.

We know the number of cruise ships berthing in Hobart increased from 32 to 48 last season and are expected to exceed 60 this year. The majority of them will use heavy fuel oil known as bunker oil while entering the harbour and while berthed to power what are effectively floating cities. Bunker fuel is the sludge that remains at the bottom of a barrel of crude oil.

It was at this point in my question this morning that the noise level from the Liberal benches increased, where they were laughing at the matters we raised and falsely painting this as an attack on the cruise ship industry, when it is the Greens again standing up for public health.

This bunker fuel contains concentrated sulphur and heavy metals, outputting sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, toluene, benzene and formaldehyde when burnt. These pollutants are being spewed out from ships berthed in the heart of Hobart, next to the UTAS College of the Arts. A small radius from the ships berth captures a significant part of the waterfront, Salamanca Place and the Hobart CBD, in which many thousands of Tasmanians live, work and play.

So concerned was the Hobart City Council that it passed a motion calling on the federal government to lower the emission standard to 0.1 per cent in line with emissions for cleaner fuel that is required in the Port of Sydney when ships are berthed, in the European Union and in the United States. This is a move which is supported by Lord Mayor Sue Hickey, the Liberal candidate for Denison. She has her name to this motion which was passed by the Hobart City Council and then tabled and passed by the Senate. I read it now:

(1) Cruise ships berthing in Hobart have increased from 32 last summer to 48 this summer.

(2) Most cruise ships use heavy fuel oil known as bunker fuel.

(3) Bunker fuel is used by cruise ships entering and leaving Hobart Port, also used while the ships are berthed in their auxiliary generators that powers the ships electricity network.

(4) The Carnival Spirit was the first cruise ship to dock in Hobart this past season. At 293 metres long and weighing 88 500 gross tonnes, it can consume 150 tonnes of bunker fuel every day. It has 62.3 megawatts worth of generators that provide electricity to its onboard electricity network. That is equivalent to 62 commercial diesel generators, each the size of a shipping container.

However, unlike the diesel generators used during the energy crisis that ran on refined diesel and were located in remote locations, cruise ship generators are powered by bunker fuel and sit in the heart of Hobart.

In 2012, the World Health Organisation raised the status of diesel exhaust to a class 1 carcinogen. In the same category as other known health hazards such as asbestos, bunker fuel can contain 3500 times more sulphur than the diesel used in a standard vehicle. Many cruise ships visiting Hobart do not have exhaust abatement technology such as particulate filters. A large cruise ship can emit more sulphur dioxide than millions of cars. Other air pollutants from the combustion of bunker fuel include those substances I talked about earlier. A single large cruise ship will emit more than 5 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide emissions and 450 kilograms of ultra-fine particles every day. Exposure to air pollution can be lethal to human health and have very serious effects on people's physical function and survival. There are many diseases and chronic conditions associated with high levels of pollutants emitted by burning bunker fuel. That is why the European Union, the United States and the people of Sydney have moved on this issue.

Under-regulated shipping emissions have been reported to have caused the death of some 60 000 people across the world in 2017. These are the standards our Environment minister is happy to have in place, apparently. We have toxicity here at 35 times what is safe for human health. We have some changes happening that she touted this morning in her refusal to write to the federal government, but it would still be five times higher than the standard set for the European Union and the United States. It is disgraceful. These tiny particulates, PM2.5 and PM10, when breathed in sit in the lungs and are extremely damaging to human health. They can trigger inflammation, pass through tissues, enter the blood, cause heart and lung failures and are known to cause cancer.

Ms Archer - What are you quoting from?

Ms O'CONNOR - I am quoting from information I have here. This is all directly sourced from the World Health Organisation. Perhaps you should have a look at it, Ms Archer.

This is an issue the Environment minister and member for Denison needs to take seriously.

Time expired.