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Norway's Green Party Unites Against Cruise Industry

Oslo Harbor

Environmentally-focused political parties are gaining visibility across Europe, and in Norway the MDG (the green party) has proposed to stop all cruise traffic to Oslo by Jan. 1, 2022. It has also proposed that all cruise ports must offer shorepower by 2024, and that all fossil-fueled ships be banned from Norwegian waters by 2025.

In Oslo, in addition to making the city emissions free (the party platform also calls for a ban on fossil-fueled forms of transportation), the MDG wants to reclaim waterfront cruise facilities and turn them into beaches, parks and playgrounds. Party leaders have also complained in media interviews that cruise passengers spend less ashore than other categories of tourists, while also interfering with other forms of tourism.

These seemingly outlandish proposals become very relevant when the MDG gained 7.1 percent more votes in Oslo in this year’s municipal election (Sept. 9) compared to four years ago, for a total of 15.3 percent of all the votes, making it the third largest party in the city (out of nine), and giving it nine seats out of the city council’s 59 seats.

In municipalities across the country MDG gained 2.6 percent for a total national average support of 6.8 percent, making it the fifth largest political party in the country.

Political Analyst Peter Egge Langsaether at the University of Science and Technology told Cruise Industry News that MDG is strong in Oslo and may get their policies through there, but this is less likely elsewhere and on a national level.

At Dagsavisen, Journalist Tom Vestreng said that he does not think that the MDG will succeed in stopping the cruise traffic to Oslo, that the push-back from the other political parties would be too strong inasmuch as cruise is an important part of Oslo’s tourism business.

Vestreng noted that the port has been expanding its shorepower offering and that all the international ferries now are able to plug in, which has reduced the emissions in the port significantly.

He also said that the MDG has most of its support from voters in the city itself and less in the suburbs where cars play a more important role for commuting and travel.

By banning fossil-fueled ships altogether, MDG aims to effectively stop any cruise traffic to Norway based on existing big-ship technologies, including LNG ships, as long as LNG is fossil fuel based.

Meanwhile, the Port of Oslo already introduced a zero emission plan in 2018 that includes considerations for shorepower and fee incentives based on reduced emissions from the ships. The port’s target, according to the plan, is zero emissions by 2030. The port is owned by the city and will have to respond to the municipal decision-making. As of today, however, cruise ship calls are already booked through 2022. Also part of the plan is a 2030 scenario that includes cruise ships.

Starting with a strategy for electric ferries and shorepower, long-term the plan calls for all ships using zero-emissions technology when docked and when entering and leaving the port.

According to a 2017 study, cruise ships accounted for 8 percent of the CO2, 9 percent of the NOx, 3 percent of the SOx and 10 percent of the Particulate Matter released in the port. Twelve percent of the emissions were attributed to maneuvering, 10 percent alongside and 5 percent to entering and leaving the port. The largest contributors, however, were the ferries running between Norway, Denmark and Germany.

Possible solutions listed were shorepower, local heat to generate steam, battery hybrids when arriving and leaving, liquid biogas and on a long-term basis, hydrogen.

In an interview in the Aftenposten newspaper on Thursday, Sept. 19, Costa Group CEO Michael Thamm was quoted as saying that all of his ships (AIDA and Costa) were equipped for shorepower, but that Norwegian ports do not have it. And for cruise to become emission-free in Norway, he said that the authorities need to play a more active role.

Meanwhile, A German TV (ZDF) report from Sept. 17 stated that cruise ships are becoming a growing environmental problem and that the Norwegian government are taking steps to stop them from entering the fjords. (Norwegian regulations call for Heritage Fjords being emission-free by 2026.)

Other MDG targets range from reducing payroll taxes for companies that are contributing to a greener environment and increasing payroll taxes for those that are contributing to environmentally harmful consumption to the eventual phasing out of the oil industry, which, of course, has made Norway the wealthy nation it now is.

MDG did not responded to a request for comment.

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