Cruise ship pollution in Funchal

MSC Virtuosa – a serial offender?

Pollution from a cruise ship in Funchal

Pollution from an unlikely source: Jaime dropped the blog a line describing how, for over an hour yesterday afternoon whilst preparing to sail, the MSC Virtuosa was filling the air over Funchal harbour and the city with engine smoke and it continued after she’d sailed – couple of photos attached from yesterday.

He recalls reading just over a week ago that she was reported doing the same in Vigo, Spain prior to returning to Southampton before commencing this latest cruise.

It turns out she’s got a bit of a history of this as a bit of research has turned up this report (below) from nearly a year ago – with his nautical background Jaime can’t explain why the authorities haven’t taken action against the ship as air pollution is an offence under International Maritime Organisation law.

The article below is from Cruise Law News, June 18, 2021

MSC Virtuosa Belches Pollution During Inaugural Cruises

This week, an” independent not for profit news website,” the Dorset Eye, posted a short video showing a cruise ship docked in the Isle of Portland, in Dorset U.K., belching pollution from its emission stacks. (Portland is just south of the resort of Weymouth, forming the southernmost point of the county of Dorset, England approximately 150 miles southwest of London).

The Dorset Eye posted the video on its YouTube page, under the title “Cruise liner at Portland Port choking the locals.” The website described the video as follows:

“A cruise liner docked at Portland Port in Dorset spewing fumes across the bay. Why is it not fined? Who is allowing this to happen? Locals reporting feeling nauseous whilst out sailing or windsurfing . . .”

Jim Ace, of the environmental group Stand.Earth and a member of Global Cruise Activist Network (GCAN), brought the disturbing video to our attention. It appears that the cruise ship is a MSC Cruises ship, although we were initially uncertain of the name of the cruise ship. MSC Cruises has been heavily promoting cruises around the British Isles aboard the MSCVirtuosa. A review of the ship’s itinerary and news articles confirm that the MSC Virtuosa has called on the port of Portland in the recent past and is scheduled to return to this port in the near future.

We posted the video and a photo of the polluting ship on Twitter and requested an explanation and from MSC and the local port, without success.

The MSC Virtuosa is a new cruise  ship which was delivered from the shipyard to MSC in early February. The MSC cruise ship entered service on May 20th with a series of three and four-night cruises from Southampton, before beginning seven-night cruises around the British Isles on June 12th.  

The MSC Virtuosa is supposedly equipped with an exhaust gas cleaning system (i.e., a scrubber) designed to reduces ship sulfur emissions. This system have been heavily criticized, and appropriately so, as essentially turning air pollution into water pollution. Read Smoke and Mirrors: Cruise Line Scrubbers Turn Air Pollution Into Water Pollution.

BBC News published an article titled Why the cruise industry is still navigating choppy waters which included a photograph (right) of the MSC Virtuosa which shows white smoke from the ship’s stacks, which are characteristic of the operation of the ship’s scrubbers. (You can see this clearly in a photo of the ship’s stacks posted herehere and here on Cruise Capital’s Twitter page).

The video (below) clearly shows a long, black plume billowing from this ship, which raises the obvious questions: Did the ship’s engines malfunction? Were the scrubbers, for what they are worth, operational? Were the scrubbers bypassed for some reason at the port?

Let’s see how MSC publicly responds, if it does.

Have a comment or question? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Video credit: Dorset Eye

June 18, 2021

COVID-19 in Madeira: updates can be found in an earlier post

13 thoughts on “Cruise ship pollution in Funchal”

  1. This is not the only cruise ship to sit with engine idling for hours on end in the bay of Funchal. Seem to recall hazy clouds hovering over a lot of visiting cruise ships.

  2. Disgraceful and such a serious concern for people who suffer from Asthma/COPD/lung diseases. Agree that if these noxious/toxic fumes have been historically released by the cruise line, their protocols re sewage etc should be more closely examined!!

  3. Sewage is pumped out to sea constantly and very large volumes ( not saying its right just stating it) however any engine that is “smoking” needs a serious looking at, they may run engines in port,for other reasons than propulsion because they provide other needs, or it may well be from generators for electric needs.
    Again none of this is right, just expressing lateral thinking.

  4. Where do you start, has nobody noticed the black smoke emissions frequently emitted from the hospital, and just above the hospital where they process the sugar cane and on top of this although there’s an inspection policy, the amount of cars producing large amounts of smoke, not sure how some of them get through the so called inspection, perhaps they know somebody there?

  5. Its not the engines that are idling, its the power plant.
    At sea pollution is extremely well monitored, the ships carry an environment officer who monitors and logs all onboard operations, instant dismissal is the norm for anyone dumping rubbish. Overside cameras record continuously for anything going overboard, sewage goes through a Hamworthy water treatment system (bugs eat the sewage) which results in pure (drinkable?) water output. Fuel waste is incinerated, water waste goes through a 15ppm pollutant monitoring system. All this it logged continuously and monitored, then inspected by environment agency surveyors who are usually very strict and have the authority to issue very large fines.
    It is in the cruise ship companies own interests to do this, bad publicity is not what they want.
    Perhaps some port authorities are afraid of losing the cruise ship custom, especially when there are other options for these ships, e.g. when they are in transit.

  6. The MSC isn’t the only guilty cruise ship, there is just as much smoke coming out of todays biggest visitor. According to on line info a medium to large cruise ship emits as much particulate diesel pollution in 24 hours as one million diesel cars! Can’t think what effect that has on the city population when the wind is blowing on shore for any length of time. I’m sure it’s all part of a cost cutting exercise by the ships owners due to the increase in fuel costs. If the port authorities don’t act then they equally must be complicit in turning a blind eye to this problem, one assumes for fear of lost future docking charges if the drive these monsters away.


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