Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has called for a single regulator to govern shipping on the Thames so it can crack down on polluting cruise liners docking at Greenwich.
Earlier this year, the new owner of Enderby Wharf in east Greenwich formally scrapped plans to build a cruise liner terminal which had been approved by Greenwich Council despite fears of pollution. The council withdrew its backing after a campaign against the terminal, which would have seen berthed ships power themselves with their diesel engines rather than plugging into onshore power.
But 12 ships berthed in Greenwich Reach last year, with 14 due this year – pumping out nearly 700 HGVs’ worth of pollution close to homes at New Capital Quay in West Greenwich and Millennium Quay in Deptford.
Pennycook, supported by the Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick, secured a Westminster Hall debate for his call, where he said that there were over 20 organisations involved in regulating shipping, hampering efforts to cut pollution. Organisations include the Port of London Authority, local councils such as Greenwich and Tower Hamlets, Transport for London, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Environment Agency.
“The current system is complex and opaque and simply inadequate,” he said, pointing out that while each organisation is doing “as much as it can feasibly do”, the efforts were “piecemeal”.
He said that a new organisation could be created, or the Port of London Authority could have its powers expanded. At present, the PLA is monitoring air pollution even though it has no formal responsibility.
“What is important is that the government recognises the case for reform and acts,” he said. “The demise of the terminal proposals does not mean the problem of toxic emissions on the Thames has been solved. I urge the government to give London the means to tackle this problem.”
But Thérèse Coffey, the environment minister, said that the complexity of dealing with shipping meant that it needed a number of regulators. “It is true that there are multiple agencies and authorities with responsibility for regulating the different classes and uses of vessels and for driving efforts to improve air quality in London. The complexity is there because of the need to appropriately regulate a diverse group of international, inland and domestic vessels.”
Ms Coffey said that more needed to be done to understand the source of emissions, and that the government was working on a clean maritime plan and had asked the industry for evidence, which would provide a “long term route to zero emissions shipping”.
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