Tourists on cruise ships visiting Barcelona face a ‘pollution tax’

To counteract pollution from “monster ships,” Barcelona has imposed a new cruise levy on visitors

Tourists on cruise ships visiting Barcelona will soon have to pay a new levy to assist the Spanish port city reduce pollution.

A tourist levy is already in place, with visitors paying €3 for stays of more than 12 hours and €1 for stays of less than 12 hours.

These fees, coupled with a €1.75 premium, are typically included in the price of cruises and hotels.

The new tax’s details will be revealed “in the next weeks,” according to Teresa Jordà, Catalonia’s minister for climate action.

big cruise ship
Photo by Matthew Barra on

What will the new tax mean for visitors?

The Catalan government, which governs Barcelona as an autonomous body, has not yet disclosed how much the new fee will cost visitors.

“We expect to be able to present, in the coming weeks, the government’s proposal to regulate emissions in the port areas of Catalonia,” Jordà said.

“We will be delighted to be able to share with Barcelona town hall the work carried out and the formula for this tax.”

Barcelona isn’t the only European city hoping to reduce cruise ships’ environmental effect.

Venice, which had become over-tourismed, prohibited large cruise ships in 2021. Visitors visiting the Italian tourist destination will be charged a €10 admission fee beginning next year.

venice boat
Photo by hitesh choudhary on

What is the impact of the new cruise ship tax on the environment?

Barcelona is the busiest cruise port in Europe.

Approximately 3 million people disembarked in the city in 2019, with daily cruise visitor numbers above 10,000 on 139 days.

In 2020, traffic decreased by 90%, but increased to 521,000 in 2021. It is expected to rise again in 2022.

The environmental impact of Barcelona’s cruise traffic is significant.

ship in barcelona
Photo by Mariakray on

According to a 2019 assessment, cruise ships polluted the city’s air more than any other European port.

Ships run on heavy crude oil, which has 2,000 times the amount of sulphur oxide – a harmful pollutant – as regular diesel.

In 2017, the report’s focus year, cruise ships in Barcelona emitted 32.8 tonnes of sulphur oxide (SOx).

sagrada famiglia, barcelona, spain
Photo by Olena Ukraine on

“The enormity of the problem caused by monster ships is finally starting to be realised. Luxury cruise ships are floating cities powered by some of the dirtiest fuel possible. Cities are rightly banning dirty diesel cars but they’re giving a free pass to cruise companies that spew out toxic fumes that do immeasurable harm to those both on board and on nearby shores. This is unacceptable.”

Faig Abbasov, shipping policy manager of the NGO behind the Transport & Environment report

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