Residents of Mallorca Want Cruise Ships to Go Away

CC BY 2.0. Amic Hoteles Hotel Horizonte/Wikimedia

The 'mega cruises' are harming the environment, the island's aesthetic appeal, and local quality of life.

The people of Palma are angry. Residents of the main city of Mallorca, one of Spain's Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, are speaking out against the enormous cruise ships that squeeze into its harbor, taking up space, contaminating the air and water, and disgorging thousands of tourists who bring little value to the city.

Over 11,000 people so far have signed a manifesto calling for stricter regulations on cruise ships. Written by NGOs, resident's associations, and community groups, the manifesto states that "megacruises at Palma has increased in unsustainable and undesirable ways for our city, causing a serious environmental and territorial impact as well as growing social protests."

Signatories would like to see these enormous ships limited to one per day and tourists to 4,000. These visitors would have to pay a sustainable tourism tax to compensate the city for their impact. Currently there can be as many as eight ships moored in Palma, carrying 15,000 passengers. These ships are also notorious polluters, dumping greywater four miles offshore. From the manifesto:

"Maritime transport pollutes a thousand times more than terrestrial. The megacruises contaminate the water, they work with the cheapest fuel in the market that emits sulfur dioxide and harmful particles for health. Moored in the harbour, they use a less harmful type of fuel but generate more than 200 times the pollution caused by a highway. Palma is the second city most contaminated by cruises in Europe, after Barcelona, as informed by Transport and Environment."

It goes on to explain that the sea floor is harmed by currents created by the shifting weight of the ships, and marine life is exposed to constant acoustic pollution for as long as a ship is moored. The pier is being extended using slag to accommodate ships greater than 300 meters in length, and constant infrastructure upgrades are required to accommodate these ships and their passengers.

Aesthetic harm is being done as well. The Bay of Palma and the surrounding city are "affected daily due to the disproportion of its colossal size." Overcrowding of tourists leads to disrespectful behavior and a sense of the city being "a thematic park only for visitors," rather than a magnificent historic destination. The result is a much less pleasant place for locals to live, which sounds just like the criticism voiced by Venetians in recent years:

"This kind of tourism [causes] the displacement of traditional shops with the disappearance of the character of the neighbourhood, including the local language. The homes and quality shops of the streets through which the cruise passengers pass lose their value, causing irreparable damage to the patrimony of their owners."

The manifesto is a passionate, lengthy document worth reading, with many good points that are applicable to other destinations. The hope is that, with Mallorca's recent shift to a more progressive government and a growing awareness of the risks of climate change, megacruises will soon be severely limited. But as one councillor told the Guardian, it probably won't happen before 2022, "as contracts had already been signed by the port of Palma and the cruise companies."

You can add your name to the petition here if you are a resident of Europe.