As MSC Cruises plans to expand with 12 new ships by 2027, NGOs and residents insist that solutions are required to address residents’ concerns about pollution after the company took over a 50% share of the Palumbo shipyard.
According to industry news, MSC Cruises has invested $11.3 billion in 12 new ships, which include the launch of a luxury brand. This is significant to Malta since the company signed a joint venture with Palumbo Group, in which MSC Cruises took a 50% share of the shipyard management. As a result, the shipyard is now being used to service MSC cruise ships and other vessels.
Residents have been complaining that one of the company’s cruise liners, the 333-meter-long MSC Splendida, has been berthed in the dockyard for over two months with engines running. With the cruise ship being described as an “eco-ship”, it is unclear exactly how much pollution the vessel is generating but complaints regarding the effects have not subsided. Residents had also voiced their concerns to The Shift about the impact of this on their health.
This new turn of events would raise questions about the frequency of the berthing of cruise liners in the shipyard, and consequently the impacts of this on residents. The yard has been leased from the government to Palumbo in a 30-year concession since 2010.
In comments to The Shift, a spokesperson for Action: Give us Back our Land, a coalition of NGOs and Cottonera residents, said that in light of such news “it is imperative that the Bormla shipyard should have all vessels in for repair using ship-to-shore facilities”.
“This shipyard is situated in a densely populated area, and it is unjust to put the residents’ health in even more peril with this anticipated increase of cruise ship presence,” they said. On Tuesday, the coalition said another cruise ship was berthed in the yard.
The coalition explained to The Shift that although cruise ships had made use of Palumbo yard’s services before, they had never experienced a situation where a cruise ship was berthed “for such a long period”. It said that, in light of such reports, it is now imperative that the facility installs shore-to-ship infrastructure. “Cottonera is a densely populated area… If one wants to have industrial activity, it should not be at the expense of residents’ health.”
Asked about the ship-to-shore power supply being extended to the area, a spokesperson for the Infrastructure Ministry had told The Shift that they are currently in discussion with Palumbo on “the way forward to utilising the ship-to-shore supply technology”, which they “endeavour to have ready by the end of 2023”. This would avoid having the ships’ engines running throughout the day.
There are also problems with the monitoring of air pollution in the area due to faults with the mobile station monitor placed there.
Attempts to reach MSC Cruises were unsuccessful, while questions sent to Palumbo in December remain unanswered.