Over the past 12 months, many of the residents of Torbay have gushed over the ‘spectacular’ sight of cruise liners resting in our bay.
From the first arrival last March, popular Facebook group Ships in Torbay and Lyme bay, has racked up more than 13,500 members ever since, with people tracking their every move.
Torbay soon became known as the ‘cruise ship car park’ with up to 11 liners sailing in and out of the bay for the months following on.
Now we are starting to see their final departure as they head off to prepare for the start of cruising holidays, but one group of people want to make you aware of what they might be leaving behind.
Hidden beneath the outpour of love these ships have received from thousands of people, is a small yet passionate group of local activists who are desperate for you to see the destruction these liners are doing to our oceans.
South Devon’s very own Ocean Rebellion are a small team, with 200 members or so, made up of passionate people who all share one thing – a determination to save our seas.
They say they are a group not based on conspiracy but on scientific evidence in which they choose not to ignore.
“There is nothing more researched than the science of climate change,” said Colin Moore, one of the members of the Ocean Rebellion group in South Devon.
He says his only aim is to make people aware of the problems these massive ships could have brought to Torbay.
Colin, 67, claimed: “The particulate pollution from the heavy oil used as fuel by just one cruise ship has been said to be as much as a million cars.
“That is normally disposed of on the open sea but when you have up to ten of these ships in and around a coastal population like Torbay, air quality can be expected to deteriorate particularly in light onshore winds.
“Most people have a rather romantic view of cruise liners, perhaps based on films such as the Titanic. But modern cruise liners are far bigger and the pollution they cause can have serious health consequences.
“It’s bad enough that a person’s carbon footprint rises at least three times while on a cruise but what is less well known is that the fumes from them are worse than a whole city’s worth of exhaust fumes.
“It’s novelty right now to see the ships out there, but can you imagine in a few years time when everybody is much more aware of the problems.
Fellow activist Chris Dance also said: “If this country and indeed the world are serious about keeping the CO2 footprint to within safe limits, these cruise ships would best be scrapped. But people who live near the coast where these cruise ships anchor or harbour ought to be made aware of the more immediate danger to their health.”
Chris also claims that cruise ships should sail out 12 miles from land to dispose of sewage, waste and fuel although there is little monitoring to ensure that they do this.
He said: “Normally they dispose of sewage directly into the ocean which is legal outside territorial waters even though such sewage disposal can contribute to large toxic blooms of algae.
“If it’s 12 miles out, it may not be an immediate problem for Torbay but it is nevertheless going into the ocean and adding to the general problems.
Aside from this, Chris also claimed that TUI ship Marella Explorer 2 lost her anchor while in Torbay – increasing risk of damage to wildlife and the sea bed below.
Together, Colin and Chris recently sailed out to Torbay P&O regular, Zaandam, and waved banners which read ‘Fail the world or save our seas’ with the hope of getting people talking – just one of the many things members of the group have done to try and get their message across.
But despite Chris’ views he says he does not feel frustration for anybody enjoying the ships and it’s just a matter of ‘making people aware’.
He said: “Nobody is to blame I want to make that clear. The main thing is to get people talking.
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“If me going out in a small inflatable kayak and holding a banner out in front of one of these ships gets people talking and wondering about some of these issues then I’m happy.
“I would only be frustrated if despite all the evidence business carried on as usual, because business as usual is taking us off a cliff edge.
“It’s the lack of knowledge people seem to have about the state of our oceans – they are in serious decline.
“There are so many signals coming in. This is what the experts of science are saying and if we don’t believe it then that would be frustrating.”
A spokesperson for Torbay council said: “The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) are investigating the loss of anchors, all of which have been recovered.
“While anchors can drag, particularly in poor weather, the chosen anchorage positions are mostly sand meaning that there is little eco-diversity at those locations and any damage that does occur is very limited.”
Michele Andjel spokesperson for P&O and Cunard ships said: “All P&O Cruises and Cunard ships operate to the highest standards and comply with all national and international environmental regulations.
“As the ships are only carrying 120 crew this is significantly lower than the circa 2500-5000 guests and crew they normally carry which means they can sit at anchor for prolonged periods.
“The protection of the environment and the places and communities we visit is our absolute priority.
“We have been liaising with the local authorities and fisherman to minimise the impact on static fishing gear and known areas where anchoring is to be avoided.
“We are extremely grateful to the port authorities in the area for enabling us to be in the bay during our pause in operations.”
A spokesperson for TUI said: “We always operate with the utmost respect for the environment and comply with international, local and marine regulations.
“We can confirm that no waste has been discharged in Torbay.”
To join South Devon and Torbay’s Ocean Rebellion click here.