• This month, a large-scale scientific campaign is being carried out in Marseille in order to better understand the pollution of the area generated by boats in the port.

  • This campaign, called Scipper and supported by Atmosud, aims both to precisely measure polluting emissions but also the impact of regulations already in force.

  • Scientists from all over Europe and equipped with the latest technologies are in charge of measuring polluting emissions from ships.

Drones that fly over ferries bound for Corsica or the Maghreb, a “sniffer” boat or even an armada of electrochemical sensors. Since the beginning of July, an army of scientists from all over Europe equipped with the latest technologies have invested in Marseille to measure the polluting emissions of ships in the air around what constitutes the first port in France and the sixth. European.

This scientific campaign, called Scipper and supported by AtmoSud, has been carried out since July 5, and until July 23, in order to control the plumes of smoke from ships entering and leaving the port of Marseille, from simple yachts to carriers. containers to ferries and controversial cruise ships.

A study far from anecdotal when we know that in Marseille, the air pollution in nitrogen dioxide of maritime origin has now exceeded that generated by cars.

New regulations

A first campaign was indeed carried out in September 2019 ... a few months before a small revolution in the maritime environment.

Since January 1, 2020, new global regulations now require ships to use fuel oil with a sulfur oxide content of less than 0.5%, compared to 3.5% previously.

With this new study, scientists are looking to know the impact of this new regulation on the environment.

"We have chosen to carry out this new study at a time when the port's activity is the most important, with the resumption of cruise ships and the peak in ferry traffic from and to Corsica and North Africa" , explains the coordinator of this study Leonidas Ntziachristos, professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

"A complete overview of pollutants"

For this, in addition to the use of drones equipped with sensors which flew over the ferries and their plumes at the beginning of July, the scientists completely refitted a yacht into a real laboratory on the water with, on board, the latest technologies. in this regard, in order to analyze in real time and in detail the smoke from the boats approached by this strange craft.

"These measurements should make it possible to have a complete overview of the pollutants emitted by ships, well beyond sulfur", hopes Barbara D'Anna, research director at the CNRS and responsible for the control campaign.

Our air pollution dossier

Knowledge in this area remains limited.

And for good reason: only 10% of the particles emitted by ships are captured by the filters put in place by the shipowners, because they are rejected in a solid state.

However, as in any combustion, some of these pollutants escape in the form of gas, before falling to the ground under the effect of condensation.

"This study should allow us to detect these volatile organic compounds", estimates Barbara D'Anna.

The results should be known at the end of the year.

As a reminder, each year, the port of Marseille-Fos welcomes 7,500 stopovers, including 3,200 in Marseille itself.


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  • Marseilles

  • Air pollution

  • Pollution

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  • Cruises