YRE Article 11–14 years old: 3rd Place
WHERE IS THE SHIP SAILING TO (Montenegro)
“Three bays, connected by narrow passages, a trilogy of beauty and perfection of nature — that’s Boka Bay, so large that it takes over an hour to be sailed through, and so beautiful that it cannot be expressed by a human language.”
Prince Dmitry Golitsyn
Along the very coastline of the „Bride of the Adriatic” there is an array of small towns from which ships have been sailing out to the distant worlds for centuries. Medieval Kotor, the town of seafarers and traders, carnivals and costume balls, rich tradition and culture, a UNESCO heritage site, has survived many stormy winds and now is facing a different kind of „danger”.
We all celebrate with well-known domestic songs: „That little boat of yours“ or „Ships made of paper“…But here we are talking about giants creating the melody of reality…This is a story about how much nature has given us, and about what we give in return.
The news that Kotor had been pronounced one of the five most popular cruise ports of the Eastern Mediterranean made our tourist workers happy, but it also made us, regular citizens, start thinking about how much cruise tourism had changed our little town. The fact that large cruise ships with so many tourists imperil our environment made us “embark” upon this research.
Last year, 412 cruise ships sailed into Kotor with over 500,000 tourists, which is nearly the population of Montenegro. Is the income of a million euros worth jeopardising our “Pearl of the Adriatic”? Kotor is turning into a town of catering facilities and souvenir shops. Passengers from cruisers and their excursion buses cause a continuous traffic congestion. The impossibility to reach parking lots, noise and crowds are our day-to-day reality. The race for profit is changing both our ancient town and the people.
At the Tourist Organization of Kotor they point out that the benefits from cruise tourism for our town is mostly related to excursions. The cruise ships sailing into “the very heart of the Old Town” cause damage to the sea and the coastline, without being charged for any of it, including utility fees.
A Canadian expert, Mr. Ross Klein, who calls cruise operations “turning water into money” points out that environmental harm caused by cruise ships is huge and that only their owners are at gain. According to his quotes, each cruise ship passenger leaves behind about four kilograms of utility waste a day. A single docking of a large-size cruise ship causes the air pollution of 2,000 cars in a year. Cruise ships discharge 20 to 40 litres of faeces and up to 300 litres of other waste waters. (Source: “Business and Finance”)
The director of the Institute for Marine Biology, Dr. Mirko Đurović, says that there have been no specific research based on which we could conclude about the extent to which the arrival of cruise ships to the Bay affects its marine ecosystem. “The biggest damage caused by the cruise ships is their turning manoeuvre; the thrusters raise mud from the bottom and anchorage makes the water muddy, which affects the sea life. The noise is also an issue, since these ships are run by powerful engines, and this affects especially fish. Altogether, this is a problem for marine organisms, especially considering that currents in the Bay are weak.”
When a cruise ship sails into the port, we often witness a mist spreading around the entire Bay due to huge amount of exhaust gases. When there is dark, thick smoke coming out of her funnel, it means that the cruise ship is using a low-grade fuel with high content of sulphur and thereby polluting the Bay and causing a long-term environmental disaster.
Prof. Dr. Špiro Ivošević, Dean of Faculty of Maritime Studies, says that “the exhaust gases produced by the combustion of a marine diesel engine contain over 450 compounds, 40 of which are toxic air pollutants affecting health and the environment.”. They can cause asthma, cancer…They are toxic to plants and cause acid rain.
In addition to shipping companies, the greatest beneficiary here is the Port of Kotor. Its representative Dr. Pavle Popović told us that 520 cruise ships with about 650,000 tourists are expected this year. He also emphasized that “the concession that has just been granted means new investments in infrastructure, which will create conditions for accepting cruisers of the latest generation, increase the capacity of the marina, raise the quality of port services and provide for all measures to minimize pollution.”
The conclusion is that no one is against the development of cruise tourism, but it is also necessary to make adequate environmental impact studies and pass rule books which will prescribe daily and yearly quotes of the ships, their anchorage and fairways. Considering that Montenegro is a signatory to the MARPOL Convention, it is obvious that authorities do little about environmental protection and safety. The surveyors of the Harbour Master’s Office should be provided with extended authorization in order to make shipping companies comply with the regulations.
I look at huge cruise ships from the fortress of “St. John” and wonder: “Where is this ship sailing to?” This way, we are left with UNESCO as our last hope to defend our still unpolluted “Bride of the Adriatic” from ourselves and preserve it for new generations. Of course, in case we are not capable of doing so… I still believe we are.
And another carnival. I can hear a jolly song from the squares. Both the young and old are getting together. They are singing, dancing. Kotor is celebrating. You have always been cheerful, my dearest town. And I no longer wonder: “Where is this ship sailing to?”
I choose to believe and hope…