Mapping air pollution of UNESCO World Heritage sites

5 July 2017

The popular tourist cruise ships along the Norwegian fjords leave a revealing trail of smog. Ramboll has assessed the air pollution and suggests higher engine standards for the ships.

The Norwegian Fjords

The Norwegian Fjords

For more information

Hanne Weggeberg

Environmental consultant within polluted air
T: +47 9773 1721

Terje Norddal

Senior Adviser
T: +47 932 43 133

By Charlotte Ankerstjerne

The Norwegian fjords’ beauty and landscape attract thousands of tourists annually from all over the world. Most visitors take in the magnificent view from the deck of a large cruise ship. Unfortunately, the large ships leave a very visible mark on these UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely pollution from the engines.

This air pollution is widely discussed by both local residents and by nature protection organizations, as there is limited knowledge about how the pollution affects nature and whether it proposes a health risk to the local residents. 

Therefore, the Norwegian Maritime Authority chose Ramboll Norway to investigate and assess the pollution. In strong collaboration with Ramboll Finland and Ramboll US, it was possible to map the current cruise ship pollution in the air from May-September in 2016. 

Old engines is the main source

The cross-Atlantic team submitted a report to the Norwegian Maritime Authority, which was published in May 2017 and can be found on their website.

The report includes a mapping of the current air pollution and suggestions for how they can handle the pollution moving forward.

“Our findings show that the level of nitrogen dioxide at certain times does exceed the allowed limit, which can have a negative health impact on people. The main source of the air pollution is from the cruise ships. The majority of these are built before 2000 and as a result are not equipped with modern engines. Therefore, we have suggested that the Norwegian Maritime Authority may for instance demand higher engine standards for the ships”, says Hanne Weggeberg, specialist consultant within air quality, Ramboll Norway.

Steep environment

She explains that emissions from the cruise ships could be estimated with a high degree of accuracy using positioning data from the ships, which could be coupled with technical data for each vessel available in international databases.

"In addition, the meteorology in the highly variable terrain was modelled using a state-of-the-art weather modelling system,” says Hanne Weggeberg,.

However, the mapping of the fjords lead to an unforeseen challenge:

“The Norwegian fjords really pushed the limits for modelling meteorology in the sense that we have not worked in such a steep environment before”, explains Hanne Weggeberg. “Luckily, our colleagues from the US, some of whom have years of experience with precisely air quality modelling, were able to find a feasible solution”.

The next step will be for the Norwegian Maritime Authority to take action against the air pollution based on the findings of the Ramboll report.


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