“When we have aberrations like this before our eyes that impact us so directly, we can only feel invested with a mission to mobilize”, explains Rémy Yves of the “Stop Croisières” collective, created in May in the second city of France.

Maritime activities are responsible for 39% of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions – an air pollutant – in the Marseille metropolis, just behind road traffic (45%), according to AtmoSud.

A cruise ship docked for an hour emits as much as 30,000 vehicles traveling at 30 km / h, estimates this organization responsible for monitoring air quality in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

“Aberration”, the word is hammered by activists to describe the “Wonder of the Seas” they have blocked, owned by Royal Caribbean: 362 meters long, 15 swimming pools, a surf simulator, an ice rink, robots to cocktail…

A very consuming activity “which no longer has any place in the world of tomorrow”, considers Rémy Yves. In yesterday’s world, during the first confinement, up to 17 liners had been blocked in Marseille with their engines on in front of amazed local residents.

– Hostile placards –

Like Michèle Rauzier, retired, who installed “open data” sensors in her bastide near the port to measure moving pollution in real time, which depends on the plume of smoke, winds and primarily affects the poor neighborhoods of the north. from Marseille.

“I believe that Marseille’s heritage is still worth going to discover rather than staying around a swimming pool doing the duck dance”, she annoys with AFPTV.

And discontent is rising and getting organized all over the French Mediterranean coast, as was already the case in Barcelona and the Balearic Islands in Spain or in Venice (Italy) which banned large liners in its historic center last year, classified by Unesco.

In Nice, local residents got a boat that was too noisy and too polluting to leave the port in June.

In July, Corsican independence activists delayed the docking in Ajaccio of another cruise liner from tourism giant TUI. During a demonstration a few days later, cruise passengers were greeted in Corsica by hostile signs: “For a little money, they kill land and sea”.

In this context, prominent elected officials have stepped up to the plate.

In Corsica, the autonomist president of the Executive Council Gilles Simeoni recognized that “this dissatisfaction expresses real problems” and that “this type of stay on polluting mega-boats does not correspond to the axes of sustainable tourism”.

“I could not stay idly by, in a crisis situation with a polluted atmosphere and peaks of heat wave” all summer, confides for his part the mayor of Marseille, Benoît Payan (Printemps marseillais, union of the left) .

He launched a petition against maritime pollution by challenging the State and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), signed to date by around 50,000 people in a city with more than 870,000 inhabitants.

The town hall wants in particular to put pressure to accelerate the processes of establishment in the Mediterranean of the zone with low emissions of sulfur oxide, devastating on marine life, called “SECA”, planned for 2025.

– electrification, a false solution? –

“The Mediterranean is the last place in the world where you can do anything, that’s enough, we are not the trash of the world”, storms Benoît Payan who does not understand why this regulation is already applied in Baltic or North Sea but not here.

As for the port of Marseille, one of the largest in France, we are careful not to make any “value judgment” and we consider ourselves to be “advanced” with “increasingly clean cruise ships, a little younger on Marseille (nine years of average age against 14 years elsewhere)”.

“And we are working hard on the electrical connection to the quay of two liners simultaneously by 2025”, listed Hervé Martel, president of the management board of the port of Marseille-Fos, during a meeting with the press in July. .

This season, the cruise ship occupancy rate is estimated at 65% but Alain Mistre, president of the Union maritime et fluviale de Marseille-Fos (UMF), hopes to regain the pre-Covid success where until nearly two million passengers had flocked to Marseille.

For anti-cruise, who announce a European mobilization against mass tourism at the end of September, the economic benefits of cruises are “derisory” for the cities and regions where the stops are made.

Some local authorities advocate and finance the electrification of quays, already in place to supply energy to ferries to Corsica, in order to reduce fuel consumption and smoke.

But the opponents denounce a nonsense with enormous quantities of electricity necessary in a period when energy sobriety is essential.